21 Questions about FFL Makerspaces

We've received an enormous number of questions from professionals inside and outside of the library industry about our Makerspaces!

Here are some of the key tools we have used in the development of our makerspaces:

In an effort to answer your questions and meet your needs, we've put together a series of FAQs about our Makerspaces:

1. Can we schedule a visit/tour?

Yes! Please contact Executive Director Susan Considine to schedule an FFL Innovation Tour, which includes a tour of our FFL Fab Lab and FFL Digital Creation Lab. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or call (315) 637-6374 x307.

For a virtual tour of our space, check out our FFL Fab Lab Space & Technology Flickr Album.

2. What "maker" programs do you have available at the FFL?

Many regular classes, events and programs happen in our makerspaces. Our Little Makerspace has dedicated programs each month. Our Creation Lab has several programs each month, including topics like Creation Club and Creation Club Jr. Our Fab Lab space has regularly schedule programs including 3D printer and laser cutter certification classes, 3D modeling group classes and 1-on-1 appointments, quilting club, knitting club, robotics club, electronics club, home repair classes, craft clubs, painting classes, and more.

View our Events Calendar for a list of current hands-on making and learning opportunities.

3. Who runs the programs in your makerspaces?

A large percentage of our programs are conducted by community members who volunteer their time to share what they're passionate and knowledgeable about with their neighbors.

We utilize this Community Engagement Form to get community members involved in meaningful ways.

The remaining programs are facilitated by library staff. We have moved almost entirely away from paying outside experts to conduct programs at the library, as our focus is providing a platform for community members to share what they know with one another.

4. What activities and programs are most in-demand in the makerspace? 

There has been a huge demand in our community for learning more about 3D printing – getting trained to use the printers, and also learning how to design one’s own objects. We have added many small group, one-on-one, and even large group training sessions on a regular basis, both staff and volunteer led, to accommodate this demand.

5. What tools and technologies are available?

The equipment available at the library to support makerspace activities can be found on our Fab Lab, Creation Lab  and Little Makers inventory web pages.  Many of these items were received through grants, donations, and partnerships, including Little Bits Kits and digital cameras, Makerbot Thing-O-Matic, our Solidworks lab license, several of our sewing machines, fabric, our Cricut paper cutter, craft items, and more.

5A. Where did you get the tools and technologies? How much did they cost?

See our vendor list. Please go to the vendor websites or contact them for up-to-date pricing info.

5B. What piece(s) of equipment/software do you wish you had purchased and/or do you plan to purchase in the near future?

We have many requests for access to a CNC router. We have purchased one and will make it available in the near future.

6. What policies do you have associated with your makerspaces?

Patrons must be "Certified" before they are allowed to use the 3D printers, sewing machines, vinyl cutter, laser cutter, or CNC machine (coming soon) independently. They must attend a one-on-one training session with a librarian in order to become "Certified." Patrons must also sign a Maker Agreement before using the Fab Lab space. View our Maker Agreement.

7. What costs are associated with your maker technologies?

It is free to use our Makerspaces. We do charge small fees for using certain materials in our Fab Lab. See http://fflib.org/fablab for a current pricing list.

8. How big are your makerspaces?

Our Fab Lab is approx. 2500 square feet. Our Creation Lab and Little Makerspace are both approx. 250 sq. ft.

9. How are your makerspaces staffed? Do the hours of operation of your makerspace match the hours of operation of your library? Are there times when you close your makerspace to the public? If so, when?

We are open 51 hours/week in our Fab Lab and 66 hours/week at the library. Our Fab Lab hours can be found at www.fflib.org/fablab. Our library hours can be found at www.fflib.org/libraryinfo/hours

Every member of our professional staff (8 librarians) has one 2-3 hour shift/week on the Fab Lab Help Desk.  After 90 days of employment, our support staff members are also trained on the Fab Lab Help Desk and each have one 3-4 hour shift each month. This time is then supplemented with volunteer staffing of the Lab. We currently have 8 trained volunteers who each work one 2-3 hour shift in the lab each week.

10. Who takes care of equipment troubleshooting/repair/maintenance?

Our IT team of 2 staff members take care of troubleshooting, repair and maintenance. We also purchase care plans that provide support and troubleshooting from equipment manufacturers when available.

11. What is involved in training your staff for making activities?

Staff training is an ongoing process as our makerspace activities grow, change and evolve. Our goal is to have all members of staff operate with a basic knowledge of the machines and equipment available in our spaces.  We train all professional members of staff to be able to provide one-on-one or small group training sessions on the equipment such as 3D printing and laser cutting. All professional members of staff attend our monthly "Maker Forums," where the staff team collectively decides what training  we would like to see offered or repeated and receives this training. 

Yes, our space was built and designed with the explicit intention of free and open access to the public for working on personal projects, and pursuing their interests and passions. Patrons can drop in and use our space independently for their own purposes any time the Lab is open.  Our only restrictions are that patrons attend a certification class before using the 3D printers or laser cutter independently.

13. What about safety and liability issues?

Check with your building insurance representative about the new service for any local requirements or code compliance issues.

View our Maker Agreement to see the rules we have associated with our Fab Lab makerspace.

View our Fab Lab Safety sheet

14. What budget did you have available to create the makerspace? (overall, construction, equipment)  What is the annual operating budget?

We received a state construction grant of $250,000 towards the construction of our FFL Fab Lab space. We also received an Innovation Award of $10,000 from the Contact Summit in October 2011 that was used towards the purchase of equipment, and $13,670 from an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign. Our annual operating budget is $1.6 million, and we have strategically reallocated funds away from underutilized resources such as databases and paid performances and lecturers towards the support of hands-on STEAM and making initiatives.

15. What are the busiest times in your makerspace?

Summer has proven to be an extremely busy time in our makerspaces. Year round, weekends are generally busy in our Fab Lab space. After school and right after work- daily, from about 3-6 PM –  can also be busy, especially as this is when classes, groups and events generally convene in our space.

16. Have you encountered difficulties in the day-to-day operation of the makerspace? For example, are there times when your makerspace is very busy and you cannot handle the traffic? If so, what happens in these instances?

There are occasionally times when our makerspace is very busy and all 7 3D printers and laser cutter are in use. To resolve this issue, we have put several new procedures in place. We limit each patron to using one 3D printer at a time. We also allow 2 of 3D printers to be reserved each day starting 3 hours prior to close.  That way, if a patron comes in wanting to use a printer and they are all taken, they can at least make a reservation for the next day or a later date and know they will have guaranteed access.

17. How much do the public rely on library staff to help them with their own makerspace projects?

The public often relies on the library staff for their initial training and introduction to some of the equipment in the Lab. The public also often relies on expertise from local community volunteer experts, such as our sewing volunteers and 3D design instructors, for taking the next steps with the equipment in our spaces. However, many people who use our space, after attending an initial certification class, are totally self-guided and self-led, and the community of makers using our space frequently learn from and teach one another in a way that goes broader and deeper than what our staff expertise would support.

18. What has been the most effective way to advertise the makerspace?

We sent out postcards advertising our Fab Lab space to homes throughout the Central New York region. We saw a large increase in visitation to the Lab following this.  As we worked to increase awareness about our 3D printing opportunities, we also featured a 3D printer at our Circulation desk, which was effective in drawing many inquiries and caused many people who might not otherwise know about or be interested in our Lab to want to learn more.

19. What can you tell us about the demographics of your makerspace users?

Our Creation Lab space is frequented by teens and preteens, but also by teachers and professionals who utilize our podcasting equipment, green screens and Adobe Creative Suite software for projects and professional purposes.

Our Little Makersspace is frequented by children and their parents, guardians and caregivers.

Our FFL Fab Lab space is frequented by all ages – families, teenagers, working professionals, entrepreneurs, retirees, and more can all be found working in the space on any given day.

20. Would you qualify your library’s experience with its makerspace as successful?

Yes, definitely. Our makerspaces are successful on a daily basis in supporting lifelong STEAM skills and interest building; supporting innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, and relationship building; and providing access to tools, equipment, expertise, and one another, so people can accomplish their goals and pursue their passions in our community.

There are countless examples of transformative experiences happening daily in our makerspaces – everything from prototyping new products, to learning a new life skills, to peer-to-peer and mentorship relationships development. To view some of these success stories, please visit our FFL Fab Lab page on YouTube.

We utilize our Capturing Stories form to capture transformative experiences that are happening in our library.

21. Is the FFL available to speak on this topic?

Please contact Sue Considine, FFL Executive Director at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 315-637-6374 X307 to discuss and arrange.

Other questions?

Read more about our maker programs and services:

While we are first library to provide public access to 3D printing technologies, other libraries are also now offering access to maker technologies. Read about what other libraries are doing:

Still have questions? Please contact Sue Considine, FFL Executive Director at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 315-637-6374 X307.