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A new space to play

Annalee Grant photo(web)

Annalee Grant photo

When most people walk into a library they expect to see books; not vintage cameras, Lego blocks, iPads and tools. But those things are exactly what Marianne Garrah hopes will fill Jasper’s Library and Cultural Centre when it is built.

With the building’s completion inching ever closer, Garrah, of Habitat for the Arts, is excited for the possibilities the new space will present.

The Edmonton Public Library recently opened up one of Canada’s largest “maker spaces,” and Garrah said Habitat for the Arts hopes to do something similar in Jasper.

Maker spaces are traditionally places where amateur tinkerers and do-it-yourselfers get together to share tools and ideas. Recently, libraries have begun hosting maker spaces that cater to a broader population, and make experimenting and building more accessible.

The Edmonton library’s space features 3D printers, Macintosh computers, video game systems and even a bookbinding machine—all of which are available for any member to use.

Garrah said that while the space Habitat for the Arts hopes to create won’t have as much fancy technology, the maker philosophy of experimenting will be alive and well.

“Maker spaces are just places where you make things … and play,” Garrah said in an interview earlier this month.

The space Habitat for the Arts hopes to establish in the new building will help facilitate those goals, creating an environment where children and adults alike can come and play.

As an example of how the space can be used, Garrah pointed to the iPads that are currently available at the Jasper Municipal Library. She said those allow library members the opportunity to create small-scale animation projects.

The maker space in the new cultural centre will bring in similar tools and build on those kinds of projects.

“We’ll design projects that are specific to the Rockies, specific to the mountains,” she said. She envisions setting up cameras to capture time-lapse images of the mountains, or providing equipment for printmaking.

Whatever tools end up occupying it, Garrah said, the space will becomes a personal voice for whatever people want to do with it, an outcome she said is the ideal goal of a maker space.

Part of accomplishing that goal is stepping back and letting people do what they want with the equipment provided. So while Habitat for the Arts will set up some programs, Garrah hopes community members will feel comfortable just showing up and enjoying the space.

“We’re guilty sometimes of thinking too much; trying to complicate programming and trying to make things that are new and exciting, and sometimes it’s as simple as playing,” she said.

“I think we’re tiring of being told what to do, what to experience, how to feel, and I think you’re seeing a growth of spaces that let you play, and don’t dictate what you do there.”

There is no tentative opening date for the Library and Cultural Centre, but council will be touring the space again on March 18 to see the progress and to gauge when the building will be completed.

 Trevor Nichols

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