Making a makerspace … or…new services for patrons

Much of 2021 has taught me that good things beget good things. And I was reminded that grants are both wonderful and a lot of work.

Niagara Falls Public Library Makerspace

In June of 2021, the Niagara Falls Public Library graciously accepted a 45K grant from the American Library Association, aimed at rebuilding tech services to libraries hit hard by COVID. Not only were we the only library in New York State to receive the generous grant, but one of two libraries in the country to receive the largest sum by this granting body.

With news of this ALA Tech grant, came another generous donation from the Grace Foundation of Buffalo in the form of $4 500. Then, our Federal Communication Commission (FCC) grant, Phase 1 was awarded in the early Fall. The FCC grant of 133K funded the purchase of 200 Chrome books and 200 wifi hot spots to loan out to our patrons with the aim of bridging the digital divide in our community. Close to 30% of our NF citizens are without wifi service in their homes, due to the high cost. Finally, we have 27K awarded by the National Library of Medicine to fund the construction and installation of 2 privacy pods and technology to support our telehealth efforts: a private place to allow for Zoom calls a doctor, conducting research with one of our newly subscribed medical databases. By the end of March, patrons will see the installation of these two pods, plus a third ADA accessible pod and technology to service our NF patrons.

Looking ahead, we have a few more grants in the hopper: grants to fund the continuing work of completing an inventory of our local history collection, grants to fund boosting the wifi signal beyond the library parking lot to a 2 block by 4 block area around 1425 Main Street.

Any non-profit professional will agree with me, receiving the news of the grant, receiving the actual funds are the most exhilarating point which then gives away to the work. This comes in the form of tasks that the public does not see: re-wiring the maker space room to accommodate the electrical load (thank your NF City Electricians!), ordering the necessary equipment, researching what is needed, planning to promote it, tracking the funds, completing reports that adhere to the grantee’s deadlines.

Gino the City Electrician’s handy dandy work

While the makerspace is currently up and running, and the ribbon cutting is over, the visit of our government representatives come and gone we are now working with NF City Hall to affix city inventory tags and work through the logistics and policies of loaning out hot spots and chrome books. We are planning travel with our Maryland-based archival company to plot out local history inventory efforts for 2022. Contracts for construction of pods, and construction plans to move existing electrical and Cat 4 wiring are afoot.

While 2021 was busy, I forsee 2022 will be equally as busy with the implementation of new and improved services for our Niagara Falls citizens.

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