WALLINGFORD — The library isn’t just a place for books. Patrons at Wallingford Public Library are learning digital and technical skills with the help of creative technologies librarian Max Spurr.
The 28-year old helps community members navigate the collaboratory, a 2,400-square-foot makerspace and digital media lab. One minute he might be helping someone using Adobe Photoshop for the first time, and after that a student looking to engrave a piece of wood for an art project with a laser cutter.
The Record-Journal stopped by the library recently to chat about what it’s like to be a librarian in 2019.
Q: What is a creative technologies librarian?
Spurr: So a few different things. I work at the information desk, like a normal reference librarian but I also work at our collaboratory which is like a makerspace so I get to help people with their projects.
Q: What is your background in this work?
Spurr: I started going to library school (graduate program at Rutgers) in 2013 and I applied here and I started working in the circulation department, so I was checking books out to people. Then they built the collaboratory, and I have done a lot of creative things in general, so I applied for the job part time and I got it. I started working in there and eventually got promoted to full time and started working on the information desk as well.
Q: What made you want to get into this field?
Spurr: I’ve always loved libraries ever since I was a little kid. We would always go to story times and everything and it was always just a nice place. Even in college I spent most of my time there. Then after college, I started thinking about what I wanted to do and it was libraries.
Q: What is a typical day for you here?
Spurr: It varies. On days when I’m on the information desk, I’ll be on the desk for about half the day and then usually the other half I’ll be in the back developing the collection. When I’m working in the collaboratory, I’m usually in there all day just helping people with their projects. I also teach technology classes and art classes in the makerspace.
Q: What is technology like in this field now?
Spurr: It’s really neat because a lot of the technology has gotten inexpensive to the point where someone won’t want to buy (it) but an organization can buy... In a lot of ways it’s similar to what libraries have always done, which is making materials accessible for everyone regardless of how much you make. It’s just the new things are like laser cutters and 3D printers.
Q: How do you think that enhances or adds to the library experience for people?
Spurr: So many people have been coming here and working on things they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. We have a long-arm quilting machine, which (is) expensive to buy, so we have a lot of people coming in and using it for free and they’re making tons of charity quilts for veterans and children that they wouldn’t be able to make otherwise.
Q: What’s the reaction you get from patrons?
Spurr: Everyone is always like, ‘wow, I didn’t know you could do this at a library,’ and that’s really cool to hear.
Q: What collections do you work with?
Spurr: The librarians help pick out what books to buy for different areas, so I usually will do the self-help books and the travel books.
Q: How do you decide what books to pick?
Spurr: Based on how many other people are buying them, what has been talked about in the press, how reputable the author is...for travel books it’s a little easier because you want to get new ones every two or three years. They get out of date and people will borrow them and try to go to places that don’t exist anymore.
Q: What is one of your favorite books?
Spurr: The Lord of the Rings, definitely.
Q: Which section would you say is most popular at the library?
Spurr: Definitely non-fiction, fiction and DVDs. We have an awesome DVD collection and we’re actually going to be starting up a new video game collection.
Q: What is the new video game collection like?
Spurr: We will have PlayStation 4 games, Nintendo Switch games and Xbox One games. People can borrow them just like books and everything else.
Q: What makes you really love what you do?
Spurr: Helping people who didn’t think they would be able to get helped out. Especially in the makerspace – they’ll bring in a project they worked on for a long time. They’re usually very grateful to get help or be able to finally use a laser cutter because it’s out of reach for a lot of people, but not anymore.