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Into the ‘Fab Lab’ and beyond

How the Fayetteville Free Library transformed from a small suburban library into an internationally-recognized industry leader

Fayetteville Free Library Director of Technology Integration Pete Cioppa holds a sign for the Fab Lab created with the library’s laser cutter. Next to him is Executive Director Sue Considine, holding a pencil holder created by one of the FFL’s 3-D printers. “We create access to content, and most importantly, to each other. That’s what we do; we’re about connectedness and community building,” she said.

Fayetteville Free Library Director of Technology Integration Pete Cioppa holds a sign for the Fab Lab created with the library’s laser cutter. Next to him is Executive Director Sue Considine, holding a pencil holder created by one of the FFL’s 3-D printers. “We create access to content, and most importantly, to each other. That’s what we do; we’re about connectedness and community building,” she said. Photo by Allie Wenner.

What can I find in the Fab Lab?

 Five 3-D printers

 A 3-D scanner

 A laser cutter and vinyl cutter

 Seven sewing machines

 Paper craft tools

 Jewelry making tools

 Knitting and crochet kits

 Professional 3-D software

 Hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches and other hand tools

 Raspberry Pis

 Kill-A-Watt energy meters

 And much, much more!

— Fayetteville Free Library Executive Director Sue Considine doesn’t play by the rules – she makes them. Since joining the FFL in 2001, Considine has moved the library from its 4,500 square foot building on East Genesee Street in 2003 to the vast 46,000 square foot space in the former Stickley Furniture Factory. She’s grown the staff from a handful of people to almost 50 and has increased the library’s budget from $300,000 to $1.6 million over the last ten years.

“I haven’t done any traditional library things my entire career,” Considine said, seated in her office, part of the east wing of the library which was renovated in 2006. “I’m a facilitator – I make resources, time, space and support available to the creative doers. I get the barriers out of the way and give them what they need to take great ideas and move them forward. That’s why I’m here.”

Last year, Considine was invited to the White House, where she was honored as a “Champion of Change” for the work she’s done at the library to encourage science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) among children and teens. Worldwide, the FFL has made headlines for its innovative Makerspace, called the Fab Lab, in publications like Forbes.

As the first public library in the world to create public access to “disruptive technologies,” or technologies that unexpectedly displace existing technologies, the FFL is now receiving calls from libraries across the world that want to emulate what it’s doing.

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