Igniting a Creative and Dynamic Community at the Innisfil ideaLAB

Adam DeVries

Convenor: Adam Baron

The conference concluded with an excellent closing keynote presentation from Aaron DeVries, ideaLAB Manager at Innisfil Public Library in the town of Innisfil, Ontario. Aaron began his presentation with the disclaimer that there is not a “one size fits all” approach to developing an effective makerspace in a library. Instead, it is important for the library to understand the community it serves, including what the community wants and needs. At Innisfil Public Library (IPL), conversations with the community helped to develop a new strategic plan that focused on discovery, experience, creativity, collaboration, and innovation.

With a vision of sparking ideas to ignite a creative and dynamic community, IPL launched the ideaLAB, a temporary space in a vacant commercial building that combined traditional library service with spaces for hands-on hacking and digital creativity. The Hacker Lab features a 3D Makerbot printer, a vinyl cutter, and a laser cutter. In addition, the Digital Media Lab has an impressive collection of audio-visual equipment to use for audio and visual production, including recording and editing. In order to keep the space alive, the only cost to users is to recoup the price of the materials.

The new technologies in the ideaLAB were incorporated into the library’s many programs, such as the after school programs Hour of Code, Makey Makey, Leap Motion, and LEGO Mindstorms. The film club was actually started by a library user who was interested in using the Digital Media Lab for creating films. While promoting the use of the new technologies, the programs enable community members to become comfortable with the tools that allow them to create, collaborate, and innovate.

To further support and promote using the new technologies, IPL introduced “Check out a skill” where community members could book one-on-one training to learn about and become confident with the technology. In addition, library staff received hands-on training so anyone could help users troubleshoot. While it is not possible to be an expert in all technologies, Aaron emphasized the importance of being open and learning with the user to figure it out.

Furthermore, the ideaLAB has enabled IPL to collaborate with the community in new ways, particularly the local school board. While some teachers bring their students into the library to use the makerspace, the library has also taken the 3D printer to every school by offering workshops on 3D Design and Printing for the students. Given the success of the ideaLAB in cultivating creativity and innovation, the school board invited IPL to provide professional development training for teachers and staff.

In setting up makerspaces, Aaron stressed the importance of focusing on the principles the technology supports rather than the technology itself. For example, when setting up a 3D printer in the library, show and talk about the technology regardless of the level of perfection. By not waiting for perfection, it is possible to engage with users, find out their needs, and instill a bit of curiosity.