Puyallup Library looks to open innovative space for creators

Chris Leneweaver keeps busy answering customers’ questions about 3-D printers and woodworking at FabLab Tacoma – a “makerspace” where people pay a monthly fee to use specialty tools and technology.

Leneweaver said users come with goals such as expanding their creativity and making products for small businesses.

The Puyallup Public Library Foundation wants to bring a similar space to Pierce County’s third-largest city.

The foundation has launched fundraising and outreach for a proposed makerspace inside the library in Pioneer Park. Visitors could use equipment and technology not easily accessible to or affordable for the public.

The concept is a growing trend around the country. Creative spaces carry names such as hackerspaces, makerspaces and fab labs. Many are membership-based operations for which users pay a monthly fee.

Puyallup’s would be different in that use of the space would be free except for some costs associated with materials.

“The idea is to have a community place where people can come together to use the newest technology, along with some of the older technology, to create products for business or personal use,” said Jim Kastama, library foundation president.

Libraries are evolving as e-books, e-readers and tablets have changed the way people use the facilities, Kastama said.

The makerspace is one way to adapt, he said, by capitalizing on a community of creators and giving them room to invent products and even jump-start small businesses.

“Libraries have been looking for ways to repurpose themselves,” Kastama said. “This is a more creative avenue of doing that.”

The library foundation hopes to open the facility on the second floor of the library in spring 2016, a goal Kastama called “aggressive.”

He said the project would cost an estimated $400,000.

The library foundation is seeking grants, donations and partnerships with local businesses and equipment manufacturers.

“We need community support,” said library foundation board member Heather Shadko, who also serves on the City Council. “It’s a big undertaking for us.”

Puyallup Library Director Tim Wadham said the maker movement transcends libraries, but it is one way for libraries to remain relevant. He said the Puyallup makerspace would include a writers’ center, studios and technology for musicians and filmmakers, 3D printers and other tools based on user demand.

“We want what goes on there to be a reflection of what the folks in Puyallup would like to do,” Wadham said. “Really, the sky’s the limit. It will grow and evolve with the community’s needs.”

Kastama said one makerspace in Seattle offers members welding equipment, table saws, drill presses and other heavy machinery. (The Puyallup library likely couldn’t accommodate that equipment, Wadham said.)

Officials say fees for materials would help offset costs after the makerspace opens. Wadham said at least one more staff member would be needed to run the space, a decision the Puyallup City Council would have to make.

Kastama said only a few libraries around the country have similar spaces, including one in Chicago and another in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Shadko noted that the Tacoma Public Library offers a fab lab, but she said it’s available only to teens. Everyone should have the opportunity to create, she said.

“This is an opportunity for our community to get behind something really innovative,” she said.

Shadko said the Puyallup Library’s makerspace would benefit more than just city residents. She said that with expansion of the commuter rail system, residents from Thurston County to Seattle and beyond could commute to use the space. She said it could lead to “the next cool thing” being invented in Puyallup.

“There are so many stories about people who are doing so many cool things in their garages,” she said. “What could happen if more people had access to some of these tools?”