Laser engraving, 3D printing, sewing, zine making and more are all accessible for free at your local library.
The MakerSpace at the Federal Way library on 34200 1st Way South celebrated its one-year anniversary in September 2023.
These classes can be a way to invite people into the library who might not go there otherwise, establishing it as a safe and welcoming space with many different resources, according to Jessica Hughes, a public services specialist for the Federal Way Library.
Hughes said these classes can help expand visitors’ interests and even their view of themselves — like finding a pathway to a love for reading or capacity for science, math or art that they didn’t have before.
“I was the kind of kid who didn’t really see myself as good at science or math growing up,” Hughes said at a recent zine workshop. “We try to draw people in with STEAM classes and introduce some element of art, or vice versa.” (STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.)
“We try to make each workshop a jumping off place for more,” Hughes said. At most events, she tries to have a variety of books related to the topic of the class so participants can dive deeper.
The library hosts events to gain skills on sophisticated electronics, but also provides spaces to build connections and creative opportunities to oust a guest’s inner critic.
“You’re bringing together people who would otherwise never be at the same table together,” Alex Poorman said at a recent zine meet up. He is a comic book artist who teaches a class at the library as well, called No Expectation Art. Using the library event called Caturday as an example, he spoke to the power of connecting people who share nothing aside from a fondness for the second most common pet.
Caturday is held once a month and features a new easy cat-themed craft each week. The magic of these workshops really happens in the connection of the participants. Hughes said she sees people building on each other’s ideas, finding inspiration from each other and connecting through this creativity.
Zines are a type of self-published magazine that have a culture of their own and are the medium of choice for an upcoming statewide contest. The definition of a zine is flexible, but the most common aspect is that they are a low budget combination of text and images, often distributed or self-published via photocopying. Many have a certain topic or theme, and are often used in activism contexts to share information, or shared by so-called starving artists who want to distribute their work
Participants in the contest are encouraged to create at least seven copies of their self-published masterpiece — five to submit and at least two to keep for themselves. The contest reminds participants that “sharing and trading is a traditional aspect of zine culture!”
At the Thursday evening zine class, nine participants gathered around a large table and a sea of zine examples. The smallest was the size of a postage stamp and featured a story starring mice. Some of the largest seemed closer cousins to a literary magazine or poetry chapbook.
Conversation at the zine making table wandered from discussion of TV shows and art projects to deeper topics of accepting imperfection. Poorman’s No Expectation drawing class is based around this theme, putting the emphasis on enjoying the process of art rather than trying to make something “good.”
Zines by their nature teach this as well, inviting the maker to stay casual and “steal” material to build something unique to them.
The Federal Way Library is one of only two in the King County Library System with MakerSpaces. The other is in Bellevue. These spaces are typically a way for community members to share knowledge and try out equipment they wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
MakerSpaces were not an invention of the King County Library System, but can be rare to find at no cost. The FabLab in Tacoma provides a mix of free and paid classes, and also offers scholarship options. An intro class to learn how to use a Glowforge laser engraver for example costs $35, but the same skill can be learned at the library for free.
Opening the MakerSpaces took years of research, according to the system. The former librarian who attended the zine making party was still working and held the responsibility of the sewing portion of the workshops. She collaborated with people all over the country, including Pierce County Clothing and Textiles as advisors.
The libraries intended to launch their new program on April 4, 2020. The pandemic changed this plan, though the library did find some ways to use it remotely. A local nonprofit called Phenomenal She worked with youth to design mugs virtually and pick up the printed mugs from library staff.
The library held its official ribbon cutting for the MakerSpace on Sept. 17, 2022. Now the MakerSpaces host almost daily events including an open time where participants can try out any of their machines.
One of the largest zine collections in the country is located in Seattle and guests can visit it by appointment, although a good selection of zines are also available digitally.
Hughes said she hopes to have a permanent zine collection at the Federal Way library too. The library is requesting funds from the King County Library Foundation for this zine library.
“The hope is that we can have some kind of zine station where library visitors can make their own zines at any time,” Hughes said. She also hopes to have some way to display and lend out the small collection of zines focusing on local authors, including ones made by community members and library visitors.
Just as the low cost and accessible nature of zine creation can make self-publication possible for anyone, MakerSpaces can also even the playing field for entrepreneurs in many ways. Seven years ago, an article in Forbes magazine was already touting these possibilities: “I think it’s no exaggeration to say that if you head a startup, makerspaces have the potential to change the future of your company. A makerspace can give you access to the technology you need to get your idea off the ground. It can connect you with collaborators. And with entities like corporations and government getting in on the excitement, a makerspace can help you find funding for your ideas.”