During the afternoon of July 27, our PPI team had the opportunity to tour the Makerspace in the lower level of the Mitchell Street branch of the Milwaukee Public Library. When the Milwaukee Public Library system purchased the five-story Hill’s Building, they conducted a restoration and repurposing project for the entire neighborhood. This is the largest branch of the Milwaukee Public Library system, with 23,000 square feet of space on the three lower floors devoted to library activities. The renovation restored the historic, natural beauty of the space, and added spectacular, modern updates.
One of those modern updates is the Makerspace, which consists of a large central area filled with screens, overhead outlets, and flexible-use furniture that can be repositioned for individual work, small-group activities, or larger group presentations or workshops.
At the time we visited, four small groups of youth (ages 10-18) were engaged in video game design projects, one group was taping a video, and several were working independently with mentors. In addition to the 26 youth, six community mentors assisted with everything from basic use of the equipment, to improving game designs and programs.
On the north side of the space, there is a separate studio for video recording and three cubbies for individuals or youth to work with mentors to develop more complex skills.
On the north wall of the space is a fully developed kitchen for healthy nutrition activities. The belief is that youth need an environment that not only helps to develop their technology skills, but also nurtures their bodies.
The library scheduled four three-hour “Iron Board Café” activities during July and August during which community members have an opportunity to experience an exchange of culture through art activities and sampling foods.
To help you visualize this experience, imagine 26 young, eager faces filled with wonder, excitement, anticipation, and intense focus. And then imagine opportunities like this in every library space across our community!