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New 'Collaboratory' space builds on popular Library of Things concept

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Russ Pike, a volunteer at the new Collaboratory inside the Hillsboro Main Library, demonstrates a drawing tablet that displays your artwork on a screen.Area residents will have a chance to tinker with some new toys when the makerspace officially opens on May 2 at the Brookwood Library.

The makerspace — the library is calling it 'the Collaboratory' — offers tools, machines and training to users with the goal of community enrichment and hands-on, learn-by-doing engagement.

"Makerspaces are social by nature," Janelle Youngblood, Hillsboro Library Assistant, said. "It's time for people to come and make something together."

The Hillsboro library transformed a computer lab over the last several months. Now, instead of computers, the space features a 3D printer, dye cutters, a sewing machine, iron and ironing board, digital drawing pads, micro controllers and just about every accessory needed to use the equipment.

The project was born from the idea behind Hillsboro's Library of Things, a collection of borrow-able items from board games to a shaved ice machine. Library patrons can stop in and check out a metal detector, a disc golf set, a cake pop maker or a beach kit — beach ball, kite, shovel, rake, sift, buckets, etc. — and other things you wouldn't expect to find amid a book collection.

But there are things the library can't check out, and the Library of Things offers tools but no advice on how to use them.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Collaboratory volunteer Lacey Hays shows off a 3D printed model of a cat at the Hillsboro Main Library.The Makerspace changes that. Youngblood said the space will be staffed, largely with volunteers from around the city. The space will offer open labs or meet ups with a specific focus as well as classes, like in advanced 3D printing, led by a local expert from the tech industry.

The open labs allow users to work on projects with space on a first-come, first-served basis. For some equipment, like the cutters and 3D printer, patrons need to be certified before use. During meet-ups, the space will be designated for projects like sewing or coloring pages, but registration isn't required.

Open labs begin May 2. There's a paper-crafting meet-up on May 4, beginning crochet on May 6, certification for sewing, 3D printing and die-cutting on May 7 and a host of things in the second week.

The space is the result of input from patrons, who left ideas and messages on the windows outside the former computer lab space. Youngblood said the windows were covered in comments by the time the comment period was over, and the makerspace reflects the wishes of the prospective users: it's a public, library-supported workshop.

While the idea certainly isn't new — makerspaces have been popular for decades — the brick-and-mortar approach is a first for the west side. Tualatin and Beaverton have maker-busses and Vancouver has a cart. Other areas have pop-up spaces, but nothing like the Hillsboro space opening next week.

"The idea is, you can come in empty handed, come in and use a tool — make your first project with our materials completely free," Youngblood said. "You can bring in specialty things if you like, a file to print on 3D printers, or walk in empty handed and make a tote bag on the sewing machine."

The Collaboratory has draw interest from Hillsboro School District instructors, many of whom are promoting the space among students though Youngblood said the district doesn't have any plans to use the space on a formal scale. A few teachers have shown interest in starting makerspaces of their own.

The library hopes to continue growth of the Collaboratory, adding a laser cutter this summer, digital media equipment and software and a possible expansion into other industrial manufacturing equipment.

For a schedule of certification courses, meet-ups and open lab times, check the Hillsboro Library events webpage.

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