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Library Design Case Study: Gateshead Central Library MakerPlace

The digital team at Gateshead Libraries (@Ghddigiteam) had established a highly success programme of activities in the library and across the borough and needed a space for larger events in the central library to keep at the forefront of these developments. The challenge was to find the right space in a busy library with an already thriving events programme. Makerspaces need a special ambience, not to mention sufficient storage space and work surfaces for all the equipment, collaborative activities and presentations. At Gateshead, Opening the Book created a successful MakerPlace in their existing Sound Gallery. This was a delicate balancing act which had to make enough space for the new, exciting programme of craft/making activities while respecting the popularity of the sound and vision collection.

To help this space really stand out from the rest of the library, our designer Paul Miller came up with the bold idea of creating trompe l’oeuil holes in the walls through which you could view the inner workings of circuit boards alongside steam punk cogs and wheels. This set up a fun contrast to the original Edwardian cornice features in the room.

A striking scheme of finishes was devised for our heavy-duty Creatorspace tables. Concrete, rough-hewn wood and a bespoke riveted metal-look laminate in pink bring a contemporary spin on the industrial workshop feel. Edison-style bulbs suspended from a gantry over the equipment bench add an element of the science lab. Flip-top tables in the same finishes provide flexibility to create workspaces for individuals or small group collaboration and can be pushed together for larger groups. Pluto units on the tables supply standard and USB power outlets.

The equipment bench accommodates all the equipment the Gateshead team wanted, including laser and vinyl cutters and 3D printers. The lockable cupboards store the portable items such as the Ceeds, Raspberry Pi, soldering irons, etc.

It was a proud moment to hear that, early in the pandemic, the MakerPlace became a hive of activity with library staff and community volunteers laser-cutting thousands of PPE face-shields and making 3D printed visors for key workers in Gateshead. In total the space manufactured over 7,000 visors. A picture of this activity was selected by Historic England as part of 100 images in its collection Picturing Lockdown.

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