By Georgine Wallace and Charles Allen

One of the highlights of 2020 has been the transformation of the new Southwest Library from an empty lot in February to a nearly completed building in December. In 2021, we will reopen to an exciting, active, and engaging “new” Southwest Library that will better serve all corners of the community. 

We wanted to let you know of another kind of transformation taking place in the new building. Southwest will have a maker space that the D.C. Public Library has aptly named the Transformation Lab. Designed to be a smaller version of The Labs at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, Southwest will be the first neighborhood library to have a maker space. 

Why is a maker space like the Transformation Lab important to Southwest? 

A simple definition of a maker space is a place where people of all ages can create, experiment, and invent something using an array of materials. The process of experimentation and finding solutions to problems fosters positive self-image and sparks an interest in further learning. These projects are often created in group situations which also enhances communication skills, team building skills, group problem solving, and public speaking skills. The lab will be designed to benefit residents from ages 13 and up. Note that children 6-12 will need to be accompanied by an adult or guardian while near the machines.  

The Southwest Transformation Lab will have a new 3D printer that will be used for programs as well as being open to the public for personal use. Special laptops loaded with design software will be available as well. Library staff members will cover a wide variety of projects when the COVID restrictions are lifted.   

New sewing machines will be part of the Lab as well. Staff will teach everything from how to perform basic clothing repairs to sophisticated projects like creating articles of clothing and quilting. Sewing related programs and after-school clubs will be created as well. Classes will be free to the public. 

A different but very important part of the Lab will be the recording equipment for residents of Southwest to record oral history submissions into the city’s archive. We are fortunate to have several amazing individuals in Southwest whose contributions to our city should be recognized. This equipment will ensure that Southwest residents are included. 

Although these machines are a great addition to a maker space, the new Southwest Library will also have a great selection of simple components like Lego blocks, motors, and basic robotic equipment suitable for younger children and those who may prefer simpler tools. Craft tools to support classes in jewelry making, crocheting, embroidery, and knitting will eventually be added to the collection. We also hope to add a couple simple microscopes for basic scientific experiments. 

Our Southwest Library has always been a community hub – a safe place for children to gather and learn, a focal point for the community to gather, and a space for students young and not-so-young to explore their talents. The Transformation Lab takes this important historical role to new levels and will be an important addition to a library that will provide Southwest residents with the facilities needed to compete in a 21st century marketplace.

On behalf of the Friends of the SW Library, I wanted to take a moment to thank Councilman Allen for his support of the Southwest Library. Not only did he obtain the needed funding to build our library but, more importantly, he helped us retain that funding for five years until its construction. Not every member of the Council has displayed this level of commitment to a library project. 

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