Thanks to a generous grant from LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act), makertools are arriving at all FRL libraries this winter. But what are makertools? You may have heard the term “makerspace” in recent years — MakerTools is FRL’s take on that concept. MakerTools are the equipment and knowledge needed for making, learning, exploring, and sharing. MakerTools might be used to prototype a new invention, to learn about a new technology, to pursue personal interests, to expand educational opportunities, or just to try out something new and interesting. There are MakerTools for all ages, from very young children to senior citizens. And whether your interests are techie or traditional, you’re sure to find something of interest to you.

Examples of high-tech tools are robots, 3D printers, and 3D pens. Children at some of our libraries have already had the opportunity to play with 3D pens and robots, and they have had a blast. (And don’t tell them, but they learn a lot while they are having all that fun.)

Young visitors to FRL libraries have been having fun with no-tech to low-tech MakerTool items as well. We’ve added a wide range of building kits to our programs, ranging from simple wood Keva Planks to jewel-toned plastic MagnaTiles, which have embedded magnets along the edges of each piece so you can easily construct three-dimensional objects. Other building kits include littleBits, Strawbees, K’Nex, and much more.

But what’s in the MakerTools collection for adults (I hear you ask)? Lots! Some things will be available for checkout, including sewing, serger, and embroidery machines;  needlework kits for knitting and crochet, tatting and latch hook, embroidery and needlework, and quilting; Dremel tools; and more do-it-yourself items. Each library has a different assortment of items, chosen with you in mind.

On the higher-tech side, you’ll find things like Makey-Makey kits, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi kits that will be available for check-out soon, so you can start exploring microcontrollers and computer boards. Some libraries even offer a photography kit including green screen, lights, reflectors, and other components. And in-house, there are Cricut and Silhouette cutting machines, a large-format printer, and more.

Hudson Library’s newly-installed 3D printer

3D printers, perhaps the most iconic of makerspace items, have been installed in two of our libraries, with two more coming very soon.

Another section of the MakerTools line-up is our Memory Lab. Here you’ll find equipment for in-house use that will allow you to digitize your film, slides,  and negatives, transfer VHS tapes to DVD, convert LP records and cassette tapes to CD, and make other analog-to-digital conversions.

An easy way to see what’s in the check-out collection is to go to our catalog and search for “makertools.” You’ll see the range of items and equipment we have waiting for you at each of our FRL branches. And be on the lookout for Demonstration Days, coming this winter to each library in the Fontana system. We’ll also be offering programs to introduce specific MakerTools. Our goal is to give access to a wide range of equipment,  knowledge, and technology, much of which is otherwise difficult for the general public to access here in western North Carolina. We hope there’s something you want to try out soon.