Mar 25, 2024 - News

Louisiana's largest public crafting space is under construction

Illustration of an art frame with an image of a spool of thread and a needle in it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Jefferson Parish Library system is building a venue in Metairie to teach residents how to use high-end crafting tools for hobbies like quilting and podcasting.

Why it matters: Library users, especially millennials and retired folks, want more creative options outside of a school setting, officials say.

The big picture: The library is hiring seven people to staff the makerspace, which is expected to open next year at the East Bank Regional Library branch on West Napoleon Avenue.

  • "We're moving from collections to connections" as more people "move from consumers to creatives," library director Jessica Styons tells Axios New Orleans.
Photo shows the first floor of the East Bank Regional Library in Metairie.
The fiction shelves on the first floor are covered in plastic and closed to the public as the East Bank Regional Library prepares to build a makerspace. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios

What's happening: Staffers are packing up 40,000 fiction books to make room for a wall to be knocked out on the first floor.

  • The space will be 1,500 square feet, which Jefferson Parish library officials say will make it one of the biggest public makerspaces in the state. RCL Architecture is drawing up the plans.
  • The library is rearranging shelves and converting some of its administrative space to make room. "We're not losing any books," said Shannon Kitchens, the circulation co-manager at the East Bank Regional Library.
  • Styons declined to say how much the project will cost, but said the funds are coming from the library's budget.

What's inside: The makerspace will have a long-arm quilting machine, 3D printers, laser cutters, Cricuts and technology to digitize home videos and photo albums, Kitchens said.

  • She hopes to offer Mardi Gras costume-making classes in addition to the current slate of free classes for knitting, painting and quilting.

Zoom in: Jefferson Parish debuted its Library of Things last year, which allows users to check out equipment like guitars and cookware and bring them home.

  • The makerspace will be good for bulky equipment that is hard to transport, says David Johnson, the library system's director of marketing and engagement.

Meanwhile, the New Orleans Public Library has a free tech space, but it is geared toward teens.

If you go: You'll need a Jefferson Parish Library card to access the makerspace and will need to pay for the material you use, such as fabric and 3D printer filament.

  • Officials are still figuring out if New Orleans Public Library cardholders will have access through the reciprocity agreement.

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