Library joins the ‘maker movement’ with new teen program

Arnaz Simpson, 18, uses a donated sewing machine and donated fabric to create a laptop bag.

Every Thursday afternoon at 3:30 p.m., a small corner in the back of the teen room at the Lee Road Library is transformed into a workshop. Tables and supplies are brought out of storage, and teens crowd around to see what tools and craft supplies may spark a creative idea. Needle and thread? Hammers, nails and wood? Yarn, beads, or electric circuits?

The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library has joined the growing “maker movement” with its Maker Thursdays program for teens at the Lee Road Library.

A March 2014 Adweek article summed up the maker movement as: “The umbrella term for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers. . . . A convergence of computer hackers and traditional artisans, the niche is established enough to have its own magazine, Make, as well as hands-on Maker Faires that are catnip for DIYers who used to toil in solitude.” 

Maker Thursdays is led by youth services associates Peggy Hull, a former Heights High English teacher, and Cassandra Anselmi, a former teaching artist at The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. Hull and Anselmi are using their combined experience to create a program for teens that will build critical-thinking skills while providing a creative outlet.

“Our main focus is to foster creativity and nurture an environment in which experimenting and failing are positive learning experiences,” said Hull. “The program also teaches kids the importance of collaboration, and supports STEAM [science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics] programs in the local schools.” 

During its first month, more than 100 teens participated in the program. One of them, recent Heights High graduate Arnaz Simpson, has attended nearly every program. “You can create whatever you can think of,” Simpson said, while putting the finishing touches on a laptop bag he made with colorful fabric and a sewing machine, both donated to the library.

“Maker spaces in libraries is a newer concept nationwide that provides people, especially young adults, with exposure to tinkering, building, crafting, making and doing,” said Anselmi. “We believe this program will benefit teens in our community by building stronger critical-thinking skills and providing creative outlets to help them find their own voice.”

As the maker program grows, the need for donated supplies will continue to grow as well. Needed supplies include tools and hardware (hammers, box cutters, rulers, screwdrivers, nails, glues, duct tape), craft supplies (yarn, fabric, notions, felt, leather, thread, needles, embroidery hoops, floss, beads, jewelry supplies, velcro, screen-printing supplies, pencils, buttons, picture frames, magnets), miscellaneous mechanical parts and electronics (toys, typewriters, sewing machines, keys, clock parts, gears), and storage containers of all sizes.

Anyone interested in donating supplies is encouraged to drop off items in the collection box in the Lee Road Library lobby. To donate items too large for the collection box, call 216-932-3600, ext. 1277.

Sheryl Banks

Sheryl Banks is the marketing and community relations manager for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System.

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Volume 8, Issue 9, Posted 2:00 PM, 08.31.2015