County Life: Making and Trying

try it logo plainBessie’s Books and Other Things

The Haliburton County Public Library held a “Try it Fair” at the beginning of December.  This is something that bigger library systems have undertaken successfully but we weren’t sure that we could do it.  We ended up attracting twenty seven skills and activities demonstrators and over 250 people attended in a four hour period.

Try it Fairs, or Try it in Ten, or How to, or Skill Share Fairs are becoming popular for libraries to host as they are a way to encourage people to be curious and playful.  Attendees can try or can make something that they may never have tied or made before.  These kinds of fairs are a result of our current learning climate.  Partially attributable to the rapid pace that technology is evolving, formal in classroom learning is no longer keeping up with the pace of change.  People have to be willing to explore on their own and engage in self-guided learning in order to stay current in our ever changing world.  Libraries have always been interested in lifelong learning and human inquisitiveness.  Libraries organizing Try it Fairs is an expansion of this interest in the physical sense.

We held ours in the High School Gymnasium, for the first two hours we limited it to high school students only, and then for the next two we opened it up to the public.  We offered anything from really high-tech skills including trying a 3D printer, horseback riding on simulated horses, hemming pants using an industrial sewing machine, or making a button.

We are still analyzing the feedback but overwhelmingly it appears that we need to do it again.  Try it Fairs are part of the “Maker Movement” which is loosely defined as,  “a resurgence of the desire to create physical objects; it can manifest itself as a technology-based extension of DIY and revels in the creation of new devices as well as tinkering with existing ones. There is a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them to designs.”

To learn more about this topic we have several books at the library that will get you started with your own maker projects and tell you more about the movement itself:

Free to make: how the maker movement is changing our schools, our jobs, and our minds by Dale Dougherty with Ariane Conrad

Maker lab: 28 super cool projects: build, invent, create, discover by Jack Challoner

The big book of maker skills: tools & techniques for building great tech projects by Chris Hackett and the editors of Popular Science.

I find the maker concept exciting because it allows for trial and error.  I think for many of us of a certain age, making mistakes is uncomfortable.  Speaking for myself, I was always worried about wasting materials, wasting time, or simply looking stupid.  Permission to explore and experiment without worry of failure is a completely new way of thinking for some.  We really do plan on holding another Try it Fair.  If you didn’t get a chance to come in December, watch for the next one, where you too can come and be inquisitive.

*Originally published in County Life, February 2017.


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