by Ann Miller, Makerspace Coordinator at Mead Public Library

Imagine a gorgeous Friday evening in July.  You’ve just finished your long work week, and you are ready to mingle with friends and relax.  Where do you go?

To our complete delight, the answer turned out to be Mead Public Library.  For months we planned our first adults-only, after hours program.  We set a steep attendance goal for ourselves of 50-100 participants, and we acknowledged that starting on a Friday night in summer was a huge gamble, but we were game for the challenge.

The program was Late @ the Library: Ultimate Maker Party, and it was the beginning of a new series for us.  We offered making activities that were tech and craft, and we invited some of our neighbors to help.  

The event began at 6:00 pm, and we had a line at the front doors waiting to get in.  The mood was set with upbeat popular hits from the 1980s, 1990s, and early aughts and the tantalizing aroma of tapas and sangria-like punch by Luz de Luna, a local Spanish restaurant.  

We set the activities along a designated path between our first and second floors.  As guests were greeted at the front, they were invited to make their own souvenir Late @ the Library button pin before entering the first room which contained the food, virtual reality play, and a wheel of activities that could be spun if they couldn’t decide what to do first.

The path next led to the Red Raider Robotics team, who had competed at the FIRST Robotics WORLD competition.  They demonstrated and allowed test driving of their team-built robot, as well as taught color coding with our Ozobots and managed our Sphero obstacle course.

Photo courtesy of Josh Lintereur.

Photo courtesy of Josh Lintereur.

Our 2nd floor offered tables for making artbots, paper flowers and bling magnets, catapult building and launching, Lego construction, and a giant mural for coloring.  The Imaginarium, our makerspace, featured rock painting with Becky Bickner of Sheboygan Rocks! and the creation of plant pets, sock creatures that sprout seeds, with Allissa Montgomery of Bookworm Gardens.

At the end of the path was our Circuit Playground which was managed by Tim Pasche and his volunteers from MAKER Break and the Étude Group.  In this room you could watch 3D printer demonstrations while experimenting with littleBits, Makey Makey, LilyPad, Arduino, Lego Mindstorms, and Raspberry Pi practice kits.  By the end of the evening a Lego Wall-e was zooming around greeting guests while they tried their hand at the Makey Makey banana piano.

When the day was done, we were elated to discover that our goal of 50-100 attendees was exceeded by the whopping turnout of 168 people.  Not only that, attendees stayed for the entire evening to try nearly everything and to simply laugh and converse while they were making.

We were packed with makers age 18 through retirement, but nothing felt rushed or crowded.  Everyone was there to have a good time.  A few even shared that it was their date night and that they hoped we would do this again.  We were especially excited that we had a lot of 30-somethings in attendance.  For us, that age group is a demographic that we struggle to attract to our programs.

The only major issue that we had was due to playlist playing problems.  I was forced to improvise by playing the music off of my old and not fully charged iPod through our PA system.  This led to my device announcing, “Battery low”, when the music stopped at 9:00 pm.  The message was laughed at by all and turned out to be a perfect way to announce that the evening had come to its end.

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