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'Dr. Who' inspires innovative work space at Westport Library's MakerSpace

A "Doctor Who" time-traveling phone booth -- a "tardis" -- was part of the inspiration for the latest creation to come out of the Westport Library's MakerSpace and, in this case, an effort to respond to the changing needs of the library itself.

Westport native Gar Waterman, a recent college graduate who was the library's "maker-in-residence" during February, collaborated with library employees and visitors to design a prototype that would create a flexible work space suitable for the 21st century library, where things are no longer expected to be quiet. It would be a space that would provide a place to work, a challenge in what now needs to be a flexible environment, as patrons have different needs.

The result of the month-long effort, revealed Saturday, is a rolling, fold-up cubicle.

It weighs 60 to 70 pounds, is made of plywood and is basically flat, sitting on castors that can carry 200 pounds. Four triangles unfold to become sides, and a tabletop folds down from a back panel.

"It's a work in progress. It's ripe for development. There's some great ideas in it," said Bill Derry, the assistant library director for innovation and user experience.

Derry is responsible for the "Doctor Who" idea, having tossed in the science fiction concept of a spaceship that is bigger on the inside than on the outside during the first of three sessions with Waterman.

"The point of the kickoff was to gather (ideas), not to reject (them) ... You don't know what is going to influence you later," Waterman said.

Those ideas for the mobile work space ranged from an elevator room that lifts above the fray, an air chair and an egg-shaped cart. There was also an imagined space that would automatically move about the library to a spot that is quiet.

Waterman said one of his favorite ideas came from a 5-year-old: "I'm the boss of my sister."

"That actually generated later ideas which you wouldn't think," Waterman said. "... If you have multiple people in a space, somebody needs to be in charge. So you have a boss chair. That person controls the configuration to the room."

That was fun, but didn't go into the final design, Waterman said. Another dead end involved tires, which were appealing because they were cheap and stackable but lacked a library aesthetic and stank, Waterman said.

This effort all took place in and around the library's MakerSpace, which was recently upgraded with a $246,545 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington, D.C.

That's part of the changing nature of a library, which is no longer a place to archive physical books but is becoming a digital repository.

"We have a MakerSpace where people are yelling and tinkering, banging on things, and I'm sure I've seen more than one person drilling and sawing next to it," Waterman said. Read Full Article 

Waterman, who visited the library as a child, has been a presence for six months, but he is moving on to a new job in North Carolina. During his stay in Westport, he has been teaching a course in the software program SolidWorks, at first to children, then to retired engineers and others, Derry said.

"We're going to lose Gar, but we still want to find somebody to teach SolidWorks," Derry said.

Waterman said he will remember his experience with the MakerSpace in Westport.

"There's something different working for a place like a library -- and particularly this library that embraces this sort of activity -- as compared to my work in industry and even academia," he said. "It's that working with people who may not necessarily know a lot about what you do or how it gets done, but they're interested and they're active. There's that wow factor when they come in and see that they have contributed something, helped build something. It's really a pleasure to see."

Nancy Guenther Chapman

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