Bryant Library’s makerspace mixes technology and arts

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A 3D printer at the Bryant Library's new makerspace builds a purple guitar pick. (Photo by Teri West)

 

When school lets out in Roslyn, teens head over to the library to play with robots and 3D print chopstick holders.

A two-room makerspace at Bryant Library that opened in February is designed for middle and high schoolers to exercise their creativity while engaging with technology, said library Director Victor Caputo, an effort many libraries are undertaking to branch out beyond books.

The library is calling it the Bryant Research and Innovation Network, or The B.R.A.I.N. There is an assortment of gadgets beyond the two 3D printers. A spherical robot can be programmed to roll around and talk using drag-and-drop coding. A pen can squeeze out thin strings of plastic, which harden into 3D creations.

A 3D printed Eiffel Tower sits on a mantel in Bryant Library’s new makerspace. (Photo by Teri West)

“Everyone that comes in here seems to gravitate toward that,” said the library’s young adult librarian, Adriana Zappolo.

Then there’s the Nintendo Switch and the board games. While much of the offerings are intended to spur creativity, The B.R.A.I.N. can also simply serve as a social spot where teens can commune to play games or do homework, the librarian said.

The space is currently open twice a week after school for two-hour periods. In future months, visitors can expect the time period to expand, Caputo said.

Zappolo said she also plans to introduce workshops and new devices.

“I like how it gives people a place to just kind of mess around creatively and have fun and come up with their own projects,” said Sarah Miller, 17, who is the co-president of the library’s Young Adult Advisory Council.

Libraries are adapting to the 21st century, Zappolo said, and are aware of what their peers, the schools, are doing as well.

Modern curriculums infuse the arts into science, technology, engineering and math education, turning STEM into STEAM. That means not only building a circuit, but building a circuit that allows you to play a banana as if it’s a piano, which youth can do with the “Makey Makey” kit at Bryant Library.

Bryant Library Director Victor Caputo, left, holding a Lego Mindstorm robot in The B.R.A.I.N. and young adult librarian Adriana Zappolo holding a 3Doodler pen. (Photo by Teri West)

“The makerspace goes along with the STEAM movement,” Zappolo said. “When school is over they can come here and continue learning in that way.”

The B.R.A.I.N. occupies two rooms in the taller building on the library lot. Flexible seating, dry erase tables and chests of craft supplies and tablets line homey rooms with pale blue walls. A yellow 3D printed Eiffel Tower is perched on the mantel above a fireplace.

Bryant Library is not the only library on Long Island to create a makerspace. Levittown’s library has everything from Mac desktop computers to a button maker and sewing machine.

Caputo said he had wanted to create The B.R.A.I.N. since he became the library’s director in 2016.

When Zappolo switched from the children’s librarian to the young adult librarian a year and a half ago, she threw her passion into the goal, he said. They started consulting with parents and school staff for ideas.

They moved the paperback section of the library’s bookstore out of a room on the building’s main floor, used a grant that state Assemblyman Charles Lavine obtained to repaint and held a grand opening in February.

A Sphero robot at The B.R.A.I.N. can be coded to speak and roll. (Photo by Teri West)

Sarah and other members of the Young Adult Advisory Council helped set up The B.R.A.I.N. before the opening.

It offers a contrast from the classroom, she said. It’s more experimental than curriculum-based, but can also introduce young people to something they may later be interested in taking a course on in school,  Sarah said.

“It’s always exciting to see the library branch out into different things, and I just was really excited for what it meant for the library and what potential opportunities could come out of it,” the Roslyn High School senior said.

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