Makerspaces for Libraries

Democratizing the design process with public access to digital fabrication technology

Tinkerlab at Ives Squared
Tinkerlab at the Award Winning Ives Squared at the New Haven Free Public Library

From their conception, libraries have served to be an incubator of creative ideas in their communities and a democratized space for learning. This concept serves as an ideal setting for makerspaces, offering neighborhoods resources like 3D printers, software, electronics, craft and hardware supplies and more. 

With a view of creating a community commons designed to foster innovation, New Haven Free Public Library transformed its Cass Gilbert Reading Room into Ives Squared. Recently awarded with the 2019 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the space was created with a goal of being a place dedicated to state-of the-art technologies where thinkers and any individual could come to learn and collaborate.

The hope is that citizens will have a chance to cultivate innovative ideas in this well-equipped workspace, and this will, in turn, nuture economic growth in the community.

AET Labs worked to furnish the space with easy-to-use digital fabrication tools that anyone could learn to master. Included in the makerspace are 2 Makerbot Replicator+ 3D printers, a Carvey desktop CNC router, and an Epilog Laser Zing laser cutting machine.

The library regularly hosts free classes and a tiered certification program for community members who want to use the equipment during regular hours.

The Challenge

Furnish a library makerspace with technology that is accessible for all

The aim of New Haven Public Library’s staff was to create a simple, user-friendly community makerspace within their Ives Squared cafe. As this was a new concept for NHFPL librarians, staff required training on all machines as well as complete installation services.



This community cafe space includes space to innovate, network, and encourage tinkering—while never asking library patrons to pay.

Our Solution

Choose easy-to-use desktop-sized digital fabrication tools, with ongoing technical support to make the space approachable for all community members.

AET Labs curated a technology plan that implemented safe, desktop-sized digital fabrication equipment that could be easily moved around the space, as needed, and didn’t require sophisticated filtration systems. We set-up and provided training to library staff so that they could in turn provide free certification and training opportunities to all library members.

Tech Used



“We’re the front door for people,” said Gina Bingham, NHFPL business outreach librarian, during a recent open house at Ives Squared. “Our machines are meant to be comfortable for beginners.” (Speaking to the ease-of-use of the digital fabrication machines in the Ives Squared Tinkerlab)

Gina Bingham
NHFPL Business Outreach Librarian