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  • Gayle Baker

Our Fabulous FabLab!

November 3 While only seven joined this ASK Salt Spring gathering, we had a fabulous time welcoming Librarian Julia Wagner and learning all about our new FabLab ( While we now know all about this wonderful new opportunity to learn and create, you may wonder: Whatever is a FabLab? Short for ‘Fabrication Laboratory,’ this exciting new offering is one of many of our Library’s many initiatives designed to close the digital divide through combining science, technology, creativity, and fun for all ages. At our FabLab you can design and create what you want, using their equipment and materials free of charge. You might say: This is only for young, agile tech minds! But, you would be wrong. While it is extremely popular for children and teens, the appeal of this FabLab includes all generations. Why? Have you ever experienced breaking a part of a favourite tool or appliance? And, failing to locate that needed replacement part? Now, with our FabLab, you can 3D print your own replacement part! Broke the lid of your favorite food processor? Bring it in and craft a new one. Broke the fob of your car key? The FabLab can do it! Drone hit a wall? Bring it in - maybe the fix is not that difficult. That tiny, but so important, part of your bike broken? Bring it in as well! And, the stories go on and on of happy FabLab-ers who get to create that part they need. Not all who love the FabLab are there to replace broken parts, either. Some want to create toys, games, decals, molds, and engravings... the list goes on. Make an appointment (, and bring in your ideas or broken parts. Do I need to know how to program or even draw? No. Matt, magician and coach, will be there to support you through the process or do it for you. And, it is all free! FabLabs are tremendous for engaging all sectors of a community by using science, technology, and engineering basics to create so many cool things. Based upon principles of play in which learning occurs by making mistakes until one gets it right, creating in FabLabs is an iterative process, full of trial, error, fun, problem solving, innovation, and success. While bridging the digital divide is an important federal strategic priority for libraries, FabLabs are still only in a fraction of our province’s public libraries. So how did Salt Spring get one? It is a credit to our Library’s support of Julia, who has been with us since 2019, applying her technological experience and training to move us toward that library of the future. Julia credits Library Director, Karen Hudson, for support of her yet untested vision. Without this support, coupled with the downtime created by the pandemic, our FabLab might never have been created. After securing Library support and a small spot for the FabLab, Julia began by collaborating with our school district to make sure that the technology would align with their existing successful program. She then applied for (and was awarded) a $10,000 grant from the Salt Spring Island Foundation ( This seed money funded the purchase of a laser cutter, computers, software, materials, and one 3-D printer. (Now with two 3-D printers, when needed... they can even print their own replacement parts!) Funding from New Horizons for Seniors ( allowed a celebratory launch in August, 2022. And the rest is history, as a guest, a representative of the Wilding Foundation (, was excited and delighted. Due to the generosity of this foundation, ongoing funding for our FabLab was secured as well as expansion ability. Only in its first year, community benefit has already far exceeded expectations. While one might assume that only the most tech-savvy gravitate to our FabLab, the reality proves otherwise, especially in the children and adult classes and workshops. Through process, play, experimentation, and creation by merging science and art, the FabLab ultimately has something for everyone. People of all ages, ability, socio-economic status, or tech-comfort level can find their fit by registering in one of the popular programs. Children love Lego Robotics or Introduction to Engineering. Adults and older youth enjoy introductory workshops to the design process. Interested in learning more about these opportunities? Check out all the FabLab Programs: (, I am not interested in a class, but can I make an individual appointment to create that perfect Christmas gift, customize a toy for my grandchild, fix my favorite Vitamix, or create a product model for sale? Absolutely! Open four days a week by appointment, there are plenty of opportunities to experience in our new amazing FabLab. Book an appointment at (, there’s plenty of time to create an engraved leather-bound journal via the Glowforge or another perfect gift for your loved one. So, what is this going to cost me? Again: It is all free. Lab time, Fab Lab Facilitator support, and materials! Are our taxes paying for this? No - fully-funded by charities, no Library money is used for the FabLab. Interestingly, though, the Library is clearly-benefiting from our new FabLab: Julia was surprised and delighted to note that enrollment in Children’s Programs ( has skyrocketed since the opening of the FabLab. At first, she was a bit bemused that parents were suddenly very anxious to be on the program mailing list, fearful of missing one of the many Children’s Programs. But, of course: Parents with children booked in one of the many FabLab Programs wanted siblings to also be entertained, enrolling the entire family. So, rather than competing with the other Children’s Programs, the FabLab is significantly-increasing their enrollment. Still growing, in its first full year of operations, our FabLab has far exceeded expectations. An experienced grant writer, Julia documents everything, both for reporting but also so that the FabLab follows its foundational principles of learning by trial and error. As some early programs under-performed, they have been replaced by others or reconfigured. Such is the nature of new and community-informed initiatives! When Julia spoke of future possibilities, some of our brains were stretched a bit too far. Designing shoes and teaching others how to design that perfect shoe? - Impossible! No, a very real possibility that may be a Salt Spring headline soon. A robotics program? Of course! As the FabLab is small - Is a new location in the future? Maybe a mobile location? So many possibilities! Julia will also continue to partner with other community fabricators. What about engraving Men’s Shed ( creations? As we said a grateful goodbye to Julia, our minds were whirring: We could actually create what we need and want rather than settling for the “near fits” we are sold. We all promised to stop by and see the FabLab - even if we may not be quite ready to begin creating :). As she prepared to leave, we all expressed our appreciation for her enthusiasm, vision, tenacity, and fearless dive into the technology that is so foreign for many of us. Our Library and Salt Spring is lucky to have you, Julia! Please join us this Friday, November 10, 11-1, in the SIMS (former Middle School) classroom next to the Boardroom to welcome our CRD Local Commissioners.

Our regular guests the second Friday of each month, they will be at this ASK Salt Spring gathering to listen to you, share information and their hopes, and participate in a discussion of those issues that mean most to you. What would upon like to ask them?

  • Is there still time to make changes to the 2024 CRD Budget?

  • How can I recommend changes to this provisional budget?

  • What would you like to accomplish in the first half of 2024?

  • What do you see as Local Community Commission successes in its first five months?

  • What challenges have you identified?

  • And? Please join us Friday, November 10, 11-1, to welcome Local Commissioners! Big News: ASK Salt Spring now has ongoing funding! A heartfelt THANK-YOU to the Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA) and its Executive Director, Peter Allen !!! ***New fundraising option*** You can now give the Return It change you earn from your bottles to ASK Salt Spring: Account #230. Any questions, anytime: Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings, monthly schedule of upcoming gatherings? Want to listen to interviews of our special guests?ASK Salt Spring Answered Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer. We love your receipts! Remember: #15 Our Partners. . . . Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA), Country Grocer through Save-a-Tape and Gift Cards and Island Savings' Simple Generosity grant. A heartfelt Thank-You!

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