Check out the new Makerspace at Dyckman Free Library!

Maybe you think you go to the library to borrow books. And, of course, you can borrow books from the library. At Sleepy Eye’s Dyckman Free Library, there is a new resource, not something to borrow, rather some new things to use.

Library Director Andy Kelton created a Makerspace in the upper level of the library. In June, when he announced the project, he explained a Makerspace is a do-it-yourself area where people can come to create, learn and inspire, containing both low-tech and high-tech items. The Makerspace at the library includes a range of offerings, from the high-tech — a 3D printer — to the low-tech of Legos.

Kelton said the Makerspace is a way to offer technology to the community. “This stuff is expensive,” he said. “This way people can try it before buying. Or if they don’t have the financial resources, they can use it at the library.” And as any library director understands, Kelton said it is always good to get more people into the library to learn about everything that is available.

Much of the library’s Makerspace is of greatest interest for kids (kids of all ages, that is) however, the 3D printer draws interest from kids and adults. A 3D printer creates physical objects by laying down many thin layers of material. The printer at the library uses a type of corn-based plastic filament to create objects.

Kelton said the 3D printer is used only under his supervision. People bring in a digital file of a design they want to create and choose the color of filament they want to use. Kelton said the website is a good source for free plans.

So far, the printer has mostly been used to make trinket or toy items, but Kelton said he made a holder for a phone to keep the charger in place. He is also making snowman ornaments, inscribed with the library name, that he designed himself. Use of the 3D printer is free until end of the year, then there will be a modest fee for the filament.

A simpler version of the printer are 3D pens, fun for kids and adults. The pens also create plastic objects, but are not programmed with a design. The user draws with the 3D pen, carefully adding layers and dimension to their creation.

Another popular item in the Makerspace are the Sphero SPRK+ robots. These are spherical robots, about the size of a tennis ball, that light up in a variety of colors. The movement, brightness, colors and speed are controlled from an iPad. Spheros can be used as simply as a remote control car, or programmed to move in a maze or pattern.

Also available for use on the Makerspace iPads is the game system Osmo. It features math and word games, and puzzles, including hands-on game pieces rather than just playing on a screen.

What kid doesn’t love playing with Legos? The library has long had a big box of Legos and a play table. Now it is a perfect fit with the Makerspace.

Wednesday afternoons, from 3:30 to 5 p.m., are special Makerspace use times for kids.

There is also a sewing machine in the Makerspace. Users must bring their own materials, but may use the machine for free.

The creation of the Makerspace was made possible through a $50,000 gift to the library from the Lola Robertson estate. The library board and city council approved spending up to $15,000 for the Makerspace. Kelton said funds from the gift are also earmarked for an outdoor patio-type space for the kind of “messy fun” projects that children especially enjoy. The library offers many children’s activities throughout the year.