BELEN — Directly behind the circulation desk, at the heart of the Belen Public Library, is a new area library staff hopes will appeal to a wide range of people — from teenagers to local business owners.

Last week, the library welcomed community members into its new MakerSpace, which features equipment to create everything from 3D objects to podcasts.

Teen librarian and computer specialist Jessica Rodgers will oversee the new space, guiding users in how to safely use the machines, as well as offering up tips and tricks she’s learned along the way.

“With the 3D printer, we learned you have to disable the (laptop’s) screensaver and sleep settings, otherwise it stops printing when it goes to sleep,” Rodgers said. “It’s a lot of trial by error.”

The goal of the MakerSpace is to give teens a place to experiment and create, and local businesses the opportunity to create their own promotional materials without having to invest in hundreds of dollars in equipment.

“We want this space to be really accessible to the community,” Rodgers said.

Julia M. Dendinger | News-Bulletin photos
Belen City Councilor Frank Ortega, left, and community member J.B. Reber, right, talk to Jessica Rodgers, the teen librarian and computer specialist at the Belen Public Library, center, about the various offerings at the library’s brand new MakerSpace.

The equipment in the space includes a 3D printer, sewing machine, video and podcasting equipment and a Cricut Maker 3, an electronic cutting machine that can cut and draw on a variety of materials such as paper, cardstock, adhesive vinyl and iron-on vinyl.

The space also has two laptop computers, which can be used with the 3D printer and Cricut machine, she added. The library is also in the process of obtaining several pieces of software, such as Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft Office and Wondershare, so community members can have access to those programs as well.

To use the machines in the MakerSpace, users have to have a library card for the Belen library, be at least 16 years old or accompanied by an adult, receive basic training on the equipment and sign a waiver with the library.

“In the beginning, until people get comfortable with the equipment, we will have someone there with them,” Rodgers said.

About a dozen people attended the MakerSpace grand opening last week, including J.B. Reber, a member of the Southwest Model Railroad Club. Reber told Rodgers he often buys G Scale model trains, which are a larger scale size of usually 1:24, which have pieces missing or broken.

He has a 3D printer and three-dimensional scanner, which he hopes to use to replace hard-to-find parts. Reber went to the MakerSpace to get advice about printing and scanning in 3D.

J.B. Reber watches as the 3D printer works on a bookmark during the grand opening of the new Belen Public Library’s MakerSpace. There are several machines in the space the public can use for free, including the printer, a Cricut machine and podcasting equipment.

While most of the equipment can be used to produce finished items in a matter of minutes or a few hours, the printer can take quite a bit of time to make a three-dimensional object, Rodgers said.

“You can leave projects to print overnight and pick them up the next business day, but we are limiting print time to 10 hours,” she said. “In the first month of operation — all of February — all the materials we have will be free while they last. After that, ideally we’d like people to bring in their own.”

For instance, the printer uses PLA filament, which costs about $30 a roll. The printer can use only one color at a time.

“The machines will still be free to use. On something like the sewing machine, we will have some needles but people should bring their own thread and fabric.”

Because of the variety of equipment available, Rodgers said the library has a room set aside for podcasting and video use so those activities aren’t in the same room as the printer and sewing machine.

The video equipment includes lights, tripods and green suits, she said.

Time lapse of the 3D printer at the Belen Public Library MakerSpace beginning a project. 

The space is funded by a combination of grants — $10,000 from the Facebook Community Action grant program and a New Mexico State Library grant for $3,500 — and a $1,500 donation from the Friends of Belen Public Library.

Reservations for the space can be made from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday and Saturday.

For information about the MakerSpace and to reserve time in the space, contact Jessica Rodgers, teen librarian and computer specialist, at 505-966-2602 or email [email protected].

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.