A person is constructing a project with glass triangles at a table at the makerspace in Boulder Public Library

Library Love

Boulder Public Library makerspace gives the community a place to create, launch businesses


Oct 19, 2022

Laser cutters. Sewing machines. Welding tools. CNC (computer numerical control) machines. 3D printers. Looms. Screen printing equipment. Vinyl cutters. Electronics. Woodworking tools.

Boulder Public Library makerspace
Patrons can make their t-shirt ideas come to life at the Boulder Public Library’s BLDG 61 makerspace. Photo by Julia Vandenoever

The library probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of all this gear. But it’s exactly what you’ll find at BLDG 61, the dynamic makerspace at the Boulder Public Library. With amenities to rival any high-tech university facility, BLDG 61 is a free community workshop dedicated to hands-on learning and the cultivation of purposeful experiences through making.

Opened in 2016 through a grant from the Boulder Library Foundation, BLDG 61 has helped launch more than 40 businesses and 10 patents.

“BLDG 61 is like no other library space we know of in that it offers access to a wide range of creative tools, including heavy, industrial fabrication tools. It was an endeavor that required vision, careful planning and a willingness to take a risk,” said Creative Technologist Zack Weaver, who helps oversee BLDG 61. “The undisputed success of the program is a result of the Boulder Library Foundation’s appetite for funding new and creative initiatives.”

Boulder Public Library makerspace
Patrons attend a “Guided Access” session for the various machines at the Boulder Public Library’s BLDG 61 makerspace. Photo by Julia Vandenoever

Like institutions across the globe, BLDG 61 was forced to temporarily close its doors to the public in spring 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as Weaver proudly points out, this didn’t stop his team from continuing their work to support the community.

“When we closed in March 2020, our team immediately went into action, intuitively recognizing that makers are never more useful than during a crisis,” he said.

The BLDG 61 team set up sewing and 3D printing workshops in their homes to produce masks, face shields and other personal protective equipment which were distributed through local organizers to front-line workers. They also produced video tutorials and curated an online repository for others to access their design files and those they sourced from makers around the world.

Boulder Public Library makerspace
Access for all: Patrons experience university-quality tools, processes and staff instruction for free at the Boulder Public Library’s BLDG 61 makerspace. Photo by Julia Vandenoever

Since reopening in June 2021, Weaver reports BLDG 61 has seen a steady return of patrons both old and new. Additional patrons have taken advantage of new YouTube video tutorials to train on the laser cutters and the recently added MIG (metal inert gas) welding workshop, and wood shop programming has tripled the number of patrons served.

“The energy and attitude of our patrons is what has kept our spirits afloat,” Weaver said. “And our generous benefactors, the Boulder Library Foundation, have made huge investments in keeping programs and equipment running smoothly.”

Want to learn more about BLDG 61? Check out their YouTube channel and follow them on Instagram and Twitter.

This is an abridged version of an article that previously appeared in Perspectives on Reading. Read the full version here.


About the Author

Perspectives on Reading is an online magazine published by OverDrive that provides unique insight into the world of reading and its impact on our communities.


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