Celebrating its success at opening a new chapter to the Westport Public Library's future, the library's MakerSpace celebrated its first anniversary Wednesday.
Close to 100 "makers," volunteers and friends joined the party in tribute to the library's pioneering role in offering an in-house enclave where people can make a wide range of things -- from puppets to models to 3D-printer products. The Westport space is an outgrowth of the Maker Movement, an international effort to promote technology-based creativity in many forms.
"How can this not be good, when your child turns one," said Maxine Bleiweis, the library executive director, noting that 8,000 people have used the MakerSpace since its inception. "This is one of our favorite children."
If the library's administration thinks highly of the endeavor, patrons and volunteers feel even stronger.
"I started as an intern, but it's given me a career," said Jun Pritsker, 17, of Weston. "Having that hands-on experience and getting to figure out how things worked was really good for me," he said of his year-long MakerSpace experiences.
He explained how rewarding it is to see adults, including business owners, come in to use the MakerSpace services of the 3D printers to accomplish things for pennies that would otherwise cost hundreds of dollars or more.
"I really think that this is the future of manufacturing," said Ben Goldschlager, 16, of Westport, who volunteers at the space.
"Three-D printers have been around since the 1970s," he said, "but the MakerSpace is the beginning of 3D printers coming to consumers."
He said, in all likelihood, when he is older and buys a home, he'll accomplish his manufacturing needs through 3D printers. "And I'll probably get my own 3D printer," he added.
His 7-year-old son, Ian, likes the idea of working in the MakerSpace. "It lets me do my own thoughts into work here, and have fun making stuff and using my skills," he said.
"It's fun because you get to do different stuff to different things," said Isabella Rivel, 7, of Westport, fashioning a hat at a crafts table during the party.
Daniel Ruskin, 14, of Westport, has found volunteering at MakerSpace a way to help realize the creativity he favors.
"Aside from just volunteering here and helping people," he said, "it's been nice to help the community."
"I think it's just great that people can actually make stuff," he added, noting that he'd created "countless things" in the MakerSpace.
"The whole idea of it is that you actually make stuff," Ruskin said.
"It is about collaborative learning," said Bill Derry, the assistant library director.
He told the Wednesday gathering that the MakerSpace had acquired its fourth 3D printer, which he said fosters a range of things to come.
"This tool makes you dream," he said.
For more information about the Westport Library's MakerSpace, visit http://westportlibrary.org