BY KASEY BUBNASH
Creativity is not bound by age, race, or socio-economic background at Allan Hancock College, the Santa Maria Public Library, and the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum, where free events called “makerspaces” give all locals the opportunity to learn new skills through making.
From simple arts and crafts projects to computer coding and 3-D printing, makerspace attendees of all ages can build skills in arts, science, and engineering while working together to strengthen community relationships for free. Although the public library has provided makerspace events in its Learning Center since May, librarian Dawn Jackson said more enhanced events will soon become available at the library thanks to $55,000 in grant funding from Hancock.
“We’re just really thrilled to be a part of this grant and to offer new information literacy to the community,” Jackson said.
The funding comes from a two-year, $350,000 Maker Implementation Grant Award that was presented to Hancock by the California Community College Chancellor’s Office in August. The college district authorized two sub-recipients, the library and the Discovery Museum, at a meeting on Sept. 12. The Santa Maria City Council approved the library’s contract with Hancock on Nov. 21, Jackson said.
In exchange for grant funding, the recently approved contract requires the library to provide ongoing placement for two to three Hancock student interns at weekly and annual makerspace events, to hold a variety of maker events in collaboration with the Discovery Museum and Hancock, and to improve technology resources offered at the library’s weekly events. It also requires the library to purchase a variety of new items, Jackson said, including a green screen, digital cameras, new computer software, sewing machines, and an additional 3-D printer.
Makerspaces allow attendees to build creative and scientific skills by designing and constructing their own projects, Jackson said. Library patrons can work alone, together, or with a library mentor on a variety of projects, from crafting gift cards to laser engraving, every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The events, Jackson said, help build skill sets that the average Santa Marian wouldn’t normally have low-cost access to.
“It’s really just about them becoming creative and working together,” Jackson said. “We’re beyond thrilled to be able to offer this to the community. Families are coming every week. They love to work together on projects. We’ve had three generations at a time coming in. It really has been a great community builder here.”
While the grant will allow the library to continue hosting weekly events, it will also provide funding for larger fair-like events, including the library’s upcoming Holiday Extravaganza makerspace event, which is slated for Dec. 9 in the Learning Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Events will also be held that day at the Discovery Museum and in Hancock’s mobile maker site.
Jackson said the library has been working to provide larger-scale, tech heavy makerspaces for nearly two years but lacked sufficient funding for the project. Hancock shared the dream of providing a makerspace for students and community members, but needed a location.
In February, after Hancock received a seed grant to explore and pilot the project, school faculty approached the library and offered funding and interns in return for a makerspace location, according to a Santa Maria City Council agenda report. The library accepted about $1,500 from the grant for supplies and staff to launch its first makerspace in May, which included about 15 projects and hosted more than 300 attendees.
Through Hancock’s newest grant, the library will receive thousands more in funding, and the Discovery Museum is on board to get more than $80,000.
“Allan Hancock College approached us just at the right time,” Jackson said. “Part of Hancock’s goal is to create this community of practice and to bridge the younger generations into seeing how making can relate to future job skills and success.”
Hancock spokesperson Jessica Sheaff said makerspaces provide a variety of important lessons for students in career technology education. A number of Hancock students go on to work in Santa Maria’s numerous engineering and technology based companies, Sheaff said, and makerspaces offer an opportunity to supplement career technology education.
“The maker movement really centralizes on this idea that everyone can make something from start to finish,” Sheaff said. “So you start with the idea in your mind, plan it out and design it, and then create it. We want to have people come in and tinker with their own projects.”
Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.