When Kaitlin Juarez moved back to Cleveland after a decade spent living in West Virginia and Rhode Island, she needed to find a new place to make her line of handmade designer toys — and Cleveland Public Library fit the bill.
Juarez’s “monsters” are whimsical fabric characters she creates from 100 percent wool, crafts with a laser cutter and sews with a foot-pedal sewing machine to conserve electricity. The eco-friendly process aligns with the characters’ storyline: help humans learn how to preserve and protect the planet.
“People love their stories and facial expressions,” Juarez says of the toys comprising her MadKnits line. “When you play with one of [them], you’re an active participant, and you can use your imagination — and I suppose those are all reasons why I love the library, too.”
A haven for makers
Upon her return to Cleveland, Juarez discovered Cleveland Public Library’s MakerSpace in TechCentral, a free resource for makers, artists and entrepreneurs. It quickly became an integral part of her business plan.
“The facilities I used in Rhode Island … were really different — that was a private room. Here in TechCentral, it’s so open, and people come up to talk to you,” she says. “I loved coming to the library to work. The staff were always so helpful, and I liked the social aspect of discussing my project with other patrons. And, the fact that it’s free cut out a huge amount of my costs. I could lower my prices a bit, and I could get more done because I wasn’t dependent on making a sale before creating another [character].”
CJ Lynce, TechCentral manager, says entrepreneurs and artists like Juarez showcase the library’s focus on innovation and technology.
“Our MakerSpace allows patrons to experiment, to explore new ideas and tools, to find the initiative and drive to try something new,” he says. “It’s all part of Cleveland Public Library’s role in informal, creative learning.”
Collaboration and community
Beyond opportunities for entrepreneurs, the library offers a variety of additional benefits to the community. As Lynce explains, Cleveland Public Library — and TechCentral in particular — plays a major role in tech education, as well as encouraging creativity and innovation.
“We offer the fundamental digital learning opportunities patrons need in today’s world,” he says. “We help people look for jobs, we teach basic computer skills, we provide a secure place for patrons to charge their phones, we teach patrons about digital media and we
offer coding and 3-D design classes. We intend for this space to be open and
That creative, accessible approach is part of what drew the entrepreneur to the library. Although Juarez has slowed her commercial production recently, she remains invested in the library and the impact it has made on her business, as well as the Cleveland community.
“This library is like a refuge. If it’s hot, there’s free air conditioning. If you’re bored, you can check out a book or DVD. If you need to connect, there’s the internet. And this is a place kids can come after school,” she says. “So, I think investing in a library is about investing in a stronger community. It’s about getting people excited about books, about the imagination, about experiencing the world in a different way.”