When local entrepreneur Jeff Bargiel was ready to make a prototype of his latest invention, a heated mousepad, things were going smoothly—until he discovered a component that was anything but smooth. The product’s heating elements created a wavy, distorted surface that just wouldn’t work for a mousepad. Enter Cleveland Public Library’s MakerSpace, which helped Bargiel iron out the wrinkles in his newest business venture.
“I was looking for a t-shirt press so I could test various ways to flatten the heating elements. That’s when a friend told me about the Library’s MakerSpace,” says Bargiel, Founder and CEO of Toasti. “I went downtown, the staff showed me how to use the press, and after one session experimenting with time and temperatures, I worked it out.”
By his next visit to the MakerSpace, Bargiel had perfected the process and was ready to bring his mousepad into the world, which he created to help computer users stay warm and productive. That including esports players who suffer from cold hands when adrenaline pulls heat from their extremities; those who suffer from arthritis; and people who work in chilly industrial or office spaces.
Even the pandemic couldn’t dampen Bargiel’s entrepreneurial spirit—he visited the MakerSpace in August, not long after the Library reopened following its closure for the COVID-19 pandemic.
MakerSpace in the Time of Coronavirus
Cleveland Public Library’s MakerSpace, which is located in TechCentral in the Louis Stokes Wing downtown, reopened in August when the rest of the Library cautiously resumed public services.
“Since we reopened, the MakerSpace has been fairly quiet, but we’re still open for patrons and accepting reservations to use the equipment,” says TechCentral Manager Suzi Perez.
Perez explains that current safety precautions limit patron use of the MakerSpace to an hour a day, and reservations are currently required. Staff will continue to provide patron assistance in the MakerSpace, but social distancing and safety guidelines means that the space has a bit more of a do-it-yourself flair than in the past. Still, its value as a community resource for makers, entrepreneurs, and artists remains strong.
“Being able to offer the software and equipment for free is beneficial for people who have small businesses but may not necessarily have the resources for this kind of equipment,” Perez says.
While some high-touch items in the MakerSpace are not available, the heat press that Bargiel used, along with the laser engravers, the vinyl cutters and printer, the button maker, and the design computers are all available for patron use. (While patrons can still submit files to be 3D printed, patrons cannot currently use the 3D printers on their own because of time restrictions.)
The Spirit of Invention
Earlier this year, when the Library was closed for the pandemic, the MakerSpace made the news as staff created face shields for first responders. The maker spirit will also be on display on November 7 during the Cleveland Maker Faire, which will be held virtually in a celebration of creativity, invention, and ingenuity.
Aside from the MakerSpace, TechCentral remains a vital service for library patrons, with extra safety precautions in place. Twelve public computers and two adaptive stations are available in TechCentral for socially distanced patron use limited to an hour a day. TechCentral also offers computer classes virtually via Zoom, with November classes focusing on resume and job search workshops, Microsoft Word, and PowerPoint.
As for Jeff Bargiel, after benefitting from the Library’s heat press and designing the prototype of his heated mousepad, things are smooth sailing.
“Using the MakerSpace at the Library is super easy and convenient,” Bargiel says. “Most of all, it’s free and accessible to everyone, and the staff is so helpful in getting everything set up. It’s a wonderful resource.”
To reserve the MakerSpace for up to an hour a day (Monday through Saturday), please contact TechCentral by calling 216-623-2980 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that Cleveland Public Library values the health and safety of its staff and patrons; scheduling changes could occur depending on future developments related to the pandemic.