Rural Nebraska libraries are transforming themselves into spaces where people have access to equipment that can help them be creative.
Libraries in Plattsmouth, Ainsworth, Loup City and North Platte are among 30 libraries across the state that have been loaned 3D printers, laser cutters, button makers and other equipment to create "makerspaces," the Lincoln Journal Star reported .
The program is funded by a $530,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The program is a partnership between the Nebraska Library Commission, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska Innovation Studio, Nebraska Extension and the Regional Library Systems. It launched in 2017 and will end next year.
Communities are working to purchase permanent machines, according to a study by the commission.
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The push for makerspaces is similar to the movement two decades ago that led to libraries adding computer labs that offered the public a place to connect to the internet, said JoAnn McManus, a project manager at the commission. The computer lab movement was first funded by public and private grants until municipalities saw the demand and the benefits.
"Makerspaces are a new thing libraries are getting into, but it's really hard to convince your city council or people you might be fundraising with that you need a makerspace before you know if there is a demand," McManus said.
Ean Petersen, a 10-year-old boy from North Platte, recently used the equipment to create a board game with 3D printed pieces, along with an engraved set of dice and laminated instructions.
"I could spend all night there working on the 3D printer," he said.
Ean's mother, JoLynn Petersen, said she's a fan of the library's offerings.
"I like that it gives an opportunity for kids to explore new things and to be creative in a world where kids tend to sit and play video games," she said.