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One of the tools in Bellevue Library’s new makerspace. (KCLS photo)

The King County Library System is opening its first makerspace this weekend. And it’s doing so with the help of a $100,000 grant from Google.

The new ideaX Makerspace stakes out 3,000 square feet on the first floor of the Bellevue Library. Library patrons will be able to explore everything from making robots and building electronic circuits to creating digital music and learning to code. Overall, KCLS is promoting the new makerspace as a hub for STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math) education.

While this makerspace is the first for KCLS, it won’t be the last. KCLS also unveiled plans to open another IdeaX Makerspace inside the Federal Way Library next year.

Themed rooms inside the 3,000 square foot makerspace, awaiting patrons. (KCLS photo)

Support for both makerspaces comes from a $100,000 grant from Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google. Google is no stranger to the area, noting in the grant announcement that it has more than 3,000 employees in offices in Seattle and Kirkland, and since 2011 has awarded more than $20 million to nonprofits and schools in Washington state.

In addition to both in-library makerspaces, the KCLS Foundation says the Google grant will allow expansion of mobile services to deliver ideaX STEAM education programs across King County to under-served youth.

The ideaX program has six “modules” for hands-on education: robotics, electronics, music and digital sound mixing, 3D printing, digital media, and game design. It’s part of what the Foundation says is its goal to offer free basic STEAM education to more than 1.4 million county residents.

Career-building skills, not surprisingly, are one reason for the new makerspace. “No one should be denied a career opportunity because they don’t have access to the necessary resources,” said Elizabeth Castleberry, executive director of the KCLS Foundation, in a statement. She said the new initiative will support mobile programs at dozens of community sites and 49 libraries.

Robotics in the Bellevue Library ideaX Makerspace. (KCLS photo)

Is a similar push for makerspaces coming to Seattle Public Library? According to an SPL spokesperson contacted by GeekWire, Seattle’s library system has no plans for makerspaces at this time.

Seattle City Librarian Marcellus Turner, in an interview with GeekWire last May, explained SPL’s approach is more referral than hands-on resource. “Here in Seattle we have so many businesses that offer makerspaces in the community that what we really try to do is teach you how to use that equipment or at least understand what you can do with it, and then go to those makerspaces and actually do it,” he said.

Both SPL and KCLS have led the U.S. in other initiatives involving technology, including recently being ranked in the top five libraries globally for digital book and audiobook circulation.

Even temporary ideaX construction walls looked like a maker project. (GeekWire photo / Frank Catalano)

The Bellevue Library ideaX Makerspace opens to the public at 10:30 am on Saturday, April 14, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and special remarks by former NASA astronaut Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, followed by demos and activities.

Oh, and the Bellevue Library children’s area, which the makerspace largely replaced? It will eventually move to a new, larger space on the library’s third floor.

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