U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján
WASHINGTON, D.C. ― U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) has introduced legislation, the Library Innovation Space Act, which will establish a grant program that will promote the development of makerspaces at public libraries to support innovation, economic developmen, and job creation.
To describe them simply, makerspaces are community centers with tools.
Luján says makerspaces combine manufacturing equipment like 3-D printers or small fabricators with community and educational resources for the purposes of helping start-ups and innovators design, prototype and manufacture items that would be impossible to create with the resources available to an individual working alone.
A number of makerspaces already exist in both large and small communities in New Mexico – examples include, the El Rito Public Library which houses a makerspace that is widely used by students and other members of the community; in Las Vegas, the Parachute Factory is a community makerspace that works with students, veteran and small businesses to spur innovation and entrepreneurship; and MAKE Santa Fe, a non-profit community workspace that compares itself to a gym, “but with powerful tools instead of exercise equipment and skilled craftspeople instead of personal trainers.”
“My goal at the federal level is to use public libraries to create makerspaces, and to provide authority for the libraries to permit startups and small businesses to use these spaces for economic development,” said Luján. “As I see it, these community makerspaces will fulfill many roles: they will help strengthen communities; they will provide mechanisms for early childhood and family education; they will familiarize community members with entrepreneurship and provide them the resources and networks to pursue their ambitions; and they will provide rural communities with the infrastructure to create needed jobs.”
Luján’s bill will work through the Institute of Museum and Library Services utilizing already established infrastructure, like public libraries. The New Mexico lawmaker said the opportunity is available to provide every community, especially rural and underserved, with a revitalized gathering space where patrons can engage in creative, educational, and entrepreneurial activities. The vision is to inspire, teach and invigorate our communities on technology, innovation, arts and the foundational skills that can lead to high tech jobs, ingenuities, prototypes, and inspiring art creations.
Lujan’s bill has been endorsed by a number of local and national organizations including theUrban Library Council; Nation of Makers Executive Director, Dorothy-Jones Davis; and the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation.
“In Santa Fe, we’ve found the makerspace to be the right environment to create apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing, stimulate entrepreneurship, and empower engagement around workforce development. It’s a peer to peer learning environment that is supercharging innovation and giving the young adults in our community a new kind of confidence. We’re excited by the collaborative opportunities brought forth by Congressman Lujan’s vision,” said Zane Fischer, co-founder of MAKE Santa Fe.