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MakerSpace encourages creativity
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PALM HARBOR – A section of the Palm Harbor Library has been roped off for a purpose outside of the services libraries traditionally provide: space for young artists to blossom.

It’s a creative use that library Director Gene Coppola said he wishes had been built in the libraries of his childhood.

“This is how libraries are changing. They never had this when I was a kid,” he said. “The kids seem to like it.”

The area, called the MakerSpace, consists of four work stations and an art easel surrounded by shelves of art supplies: colored paper, ribbons, canisters of beads, glue, bottles of paint, foam sheets and popsicle sticks. Since its soft opening April 29, it has been visited 424 times, Coppola said.

“Here’s the best part: not one tax dollar is used for this,” he said.

The Palm Harbor Library Foundation raised $11,000 for the project, and the Palm Harbor Friends of the Library gave $2,665. Another $7,000 has been raised so far in private donations, and the library plans to offer naming rights for $2,500.

The funds paid for the furniture, supplies and short walls that section the area off from the rest of the library. Coppola said he’s “very happy” with the results and impressed with the artwork that comes out of MakerSpace. The children who participate aren’t bound by set activities, but rather given the freedom to create what they wish with the supplies provided.

“They’re very creative; they really are. It’s turned out to be a really wonderful thing,” he said.

The MakerSpace sees plenty of use, he said. Library staff regulates the number of children in the area by requiring a “passport” to enter it, available at the children’s desk.

“We want to try to have some control. Not everybody can just go in,” Coppola said. “We had to make sure that they only take so much at a time.”

People have asked him why the carpet in the MakerSpace wasn’t covered to guard against paint and glue stains spilled over in the creative process. Coppola said he thought the paint-splattered floor added to the ambiance of the area.

“They’re going to make it messy. It looks like an art studio with paint and everything else everywhere,” he said with a smile.

Offering use of the in-library art studio for free was important to Coppola.

“There are a lot of kids out there that don’t have the money to go to art class,” he said. “You come here. You don’t even need a library card, just come in and just enjoy yourself. That’s what I like about it.”

Coppola had anticipated giving formal thank you gifts to the donors who helped make the MakerSpace possible. Now he has a better idea: the children will create pieces of art in honor of each donor, to be hung from the ceiling of MakerSpace.

A formal grand opening will be held Friday, July 18, 12:30 p.m.
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