If someone asked what you might expect to find in a library, it wouldn’t be surprising if the first answer was “books.” What if the answer was hammers and hand drills? How about electronic and circuitry wiring materials? How would you respond if you learned that the library hosted arduino electronic processors that were available to anyone in the community to build automated machinery that can be controlled by computer programming. And what if the library provided space for community members of all ages to build and make anything with the available resources?

These answers might be less surprising if you have ever visited the Millvale Community Library. The Millvale Library is not just unique as a library, but is also one of the most distinctive community resources in the Pittsburgh region. It’s hard to miss the bright yellow building with a deep red trim located on Grant Avenue.

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Fueled by solar panels on the roof, a goal for the building is to become a net producer of energy by feeding excess energy back into the grid. “Look at that,” local residents holler to one another. “The electricity meter is spinning backwards!”

Beyond utilizing alternative energy, all of the rain gutter downspouts are being redirected into cisterns that allow captured water to be used on site. The collected rainwater is given to plants in raised garden beds or dispersed in the rain garden. All of the rain that falls on the library property is prevented from draining into Girty’s Creek, which runs along the back of the property and has been known to flood. While people around the world are worrying about not having access to energy or clean water, the community in Millvale is providing solutions.

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Flowers in the rain garden, part of the library’s elaborate Green Infrastructure

Supporting the Community

It takes a community to build and operate a space like the library in Millvale, but the library is dedicated to giving back to the community that created it. The library offers more than 7,000 books, tools, educational resources, and a host of programs for youth and adults.

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An arduino processor and a hand drill like those available at the library

 Maker Space

One of the educational programs offered for early childhood and youth is the Maker Thursday program. The goal of Maker Thursday is for “groups of people to band together to share ideas, promote growth, and learn new skills.” The program encourages local children to engage with the vast library resources to learn and interact by making or building things at the library. Head librarian Jason Vey is not afraid of noise in his space. Instead, he encourages children to hammer, drill, play, and ask questions in the Maker Space.

While people around the world are worrying about not having access to energy or clean water, the community in Millvale is providing solutions

The DECO team was introduced to the program over the summer while helping install new Green Infrastructure through an initiative with the Allegheny County Conservation District. We noticed a group of youth turning wrenches on their bicycles in the library. It seemed like an unusual place for a group of kids to be working together on their bikes. Brian Wolovich, President and co-founder of the library, explained the purpose of the program was to provide a space for youth to learn hands-on skills, build community, and spend time in a safe place.

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A functioning radio created with Snap Circuits available through the Maker Space

The Maker program ran through the summer as a 5-day per week program through a partnership with the National Maker Corps with help from the Makeshop at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. DECO Resources will be assisting with the transition into a weekly workshop that currently runs 12-6 pm every Thursday. Our goal is to help build new partnerships and expand upon existing relationships to create a sustainable program for local youth.

The Millvale Community Library is an impressive display of community development and environmental preservation. The town of Millvale stood out to us as a community that would understand and support our Green Infrastructure initiative when we were looking for a production facility. Since January, we have continued to develop DECO Water Gardens at the Open Floor Maker Space at 2 Sedgwick Street in Millvale. We will continue to build upon and help promote the maker philosophy with help from progressive thinkers like the team at the Millvale Library.

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Howard Street at North Avenue in Millvale