New Program Transforms Westhampton Beach Library Into Science Lab

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Families passing through the Westhampton Free Library in recent months might have stumbled across an unusual sight among all the stacks of books: people participating in hands-on science experiments.The library recently started a free family program that organizers have dubbed “LibLab,” which transforms some of the educational space into an informal laboratory, giving children of all ages a chance to imagine and create while learning about science. The program is part of a movement called “MakerSpace” that has grown among libraries and community centers across the nation, offering the public a place to complete projects as simple as sewing or as complex as metalworking and welding.

“I love to try new things,” said Leslie Millrod, an employee of the Westhampton Beach Library who is in charge of its LibLab program.

She explained that she has always had an affinity for tinkering, and often helped her own kids with their science experiments when they were younger. When she heard of the MakerSpace programs that other libraries were offering, she said she knew she wanted to create a similar experience in Westhampton Beach. “Everybody wants to play,” she said.

Earlier this month Harrison Smetana, 6, and his 3-year-old brother, Bradley, were drawn through their curiosity to a table in the library where Ms. Millrod was using dough and batteries to build what she called “squishy circuits.” She explained to the boys how the different ingredients in the dough allowed the electrical current to flow from the battery to the tiny LED lights she had with her.

Both Harrison and Bradley were able to construct circuits of their own, which, after some tinkering, illuminated the colored lights.

“The Westhampton Free Library encourages families to participate in the program together, and LibLab gives them that opportunity,” Library Director Danielle Zubiller said.

The program, which began earlier this month, will be offered at the beginning of each hour, from noon until 7 p.m., on the following dates: Monday, July 29; Tuesday, August 6; Thursday, August 15; and Monday, August 19.

Ms. Millrod said all materials will be provided, though supervision is required for children age 5 to 12. Older children are also encouraged to participate.

“It’s been fun because it’s been inter-generational,” Ms. Millrod said, adding that around 50 people have participated each time the library has held the program so far.

In the next few weeks, participants will be invited to construct their own solar ovens from pizza boxes, as well as catapults and weaving looms. Ms. Millrod explained that she hopes to continue the program year-round, offering all kinds of new experiments and tools.

“This is just getting our feet wet,” she said.

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