News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


PRESS RELEASE 07/09/2014
Subject :

Urban Libraries Council Recognizes Palo Alto City Library as a Top Innovator
makeX: Teen Mobile Makerspace, Demonstrates Value and Impact of Public Libraries in the Community
Contact : Monique le Conge Ziesenhenne, Library Director    (650) 329-2403
Karen Kienzle, Manager, Community Services    (650) 617-3535

PALO ALTO, CA – The Urban Libraries Council (ULC) recognized Palo Alto City Library as one of its 2014 Top Innovators during the Next Libraries Conference, June 22-24, in Chicago.  A panel of expert judges selected Palo Alto City Library and makeX: Teen Mobile Makerspace, from more than 180 applications in the fifth annual ULC Innovations Initiative. 

ULC’s Innovations Initiative highlights members’ programs, services, and operating practices that demonstrate their leadership by creating new approaches and practices to ensure the public library continuously meets the ever-changing needs of the community. Palo Alto City Library’s makeX: Teen Mobile Makerspace, won Honorable Mention in the category of Leading Learning.

makeX is a teen-designed “third space” for Palo Alto middle-school and high-school age teens, open to users of all ages, that promotes self-directed and mentored creative expression and learning about art and technology, meets the educational and social needs of the teen audience and, through its mobile nature, encourages participation by teen audiences throughout the City. Teens were extensively involved in the planning process in a manner that promoted their engagement in the design thinking process and demonstrated the applications of design thinking concepts in life and learning. They created an environment where teen voices were heard, validated, and used to determine the final design, which contributes to Palo Alto’s overall goal of improving the well-being of young people by expanding programming for teens and the Palo Alto City Council’s priority of "Technology and the Connected City." It is a model and on-going prototype that can be replicated throughout libraries and museums. The Palo Alto Art Center engages teens in developing 21st-century skills through visual arts. The Library fosters 21st-century skills through library resources and capitalizes on the success it has had incorporating STEM programs in its scheduled activities. Through this partnership, makeX highlights the importance of STEAM. 

Funded by a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant through the California State Library, makeX is a space where Palo Alto youth can employ their creative talents in making projects, tinkering, and learning about art and technology through exploration of tools and equipment, including a laser cutter, soldering, drill press, sewing machine, and much more.  Based on research by one of the project consultants, author and educator Bernie Trilling, this is believed to be the only teen-designed makerspace in the country and possibly the world. The model this creates could be a "makerspace in a box," with scalable plans (open source, available online at the makeX website) for the space available in libraries and museums, recommended materials and equipment, and suggestions on how to use online systems to reserve equipment. Collaboration between the Palo Alto City Library and Art Center was a unique feature of this project, making it more broadly applicable to cultural institutions. Several pieces of teen-designed furniture were created for seating, storage, and to convey information. To date, this teen-run makerspace has moved to several locations, including the lobby of City Hall, and over 425 participants have made use of the space.

“Teens were critical to the success of this project,” said Library Director Monique le Conge Ziesenhenne. “We look forward to their continued participation as we refine and build on makeX as part of the library’s broader role in creative expression and community engagement. We are proud to win this award!”

In announcing the 2014 Top Innovators, ULC President and CEO Susan Benton said these libraries and every library that submitted programs for the Innovations Awards this year demonstrate the amazing work that takes place in libraries every day. 

“On behalf of the ULC community throughout North America, I congratulate Palo Alto City Library and makeX: Teen Mobile Makerspace, for being selected as a 2014 Top Innovator. You and your library staff are commended for setting the pace for growth, change, and innovation in the field,” Benton said. “Each submission highlights exactly how public libraries create value and impact in local communities.”

The 2014 Top Innovators, including Honorable Mentions in the 10 categories are:

Category: Leading Learning
Top Innovator: Grand Rapids Public Library (MI) DigiBridge
Honorable Mention: Palo Alto City Library (CA) makeX: Teen Mobile Makerspace
Category: Civic and Community Engagement
Top Innovator: Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library (KS) Librarians Facilitate Community Change
Honorable Mention: Wichita Public Library (KS) Activate Wichita
Category: Collections
Top Innovator: Santa Clara County Library District (CA) SCCLD – JukePop Launch Self-Publishing
Honorable Mention: Pikes Peak Library District (CO) Waldo Canyon Fire Digital Collection
Category: Customer Experience
Top Innovator: Denver Public Library (CO) DPL Connect: A Pedal-Powered Bookmobile
Honorable Mention: Edmonton Public Library (AB) Great Stuff: EPL Makes It Personal!
Category: Economic and Workforce Development
Top Innovator: Memphis Public Library (TN) JobLINC: Mobile Bus for Job Seekers and Employers
Honorable Mention: King County Library System (WA) Building a Workforce that Reflects Our Community
Category: Health, Wellness, and Public Safety
Top Innovator: Houston Public Library (TX) Healthy L.I.F.E
Honorable Mention: Pima County Public Library (AZ) Santa Rosa Snacks
Category: Operations
Top Innovator: Aurora Public Library (CO) Library in a Big Box
Honorable Mention: Cuyahoga County Public Library (OH) MOVE TEAM!
Category: Organizational Change and Strategic Management
Top Innovator: Skokie Public Library (IL) Realigning for Greater Access, Learning, and Community
Honorable Mention: Charlotte Mecklenburg Library (NC) WorkSmart for Process Improvement and Innovation
Category: Positioning the Library
Top Innovator: Durham County Library (NC) First Library in Space
Honorable Mention: Springfield City Library (MA) Imagine: A Peace-Full City
Category: Sustainability
Top Innovator: Salt Lake County Library Services (UT) Sustainability Initiative
Honorable Mention: Milwaukee Public Library (WI) Better Building Challenge Showcase Facility

In addition, ULC is honoring two libraries for their leadership in helping their communities respond to crises:

Pioneer Library System (OK) Virtual Response: May 2013 Oklahoma Tornadoes
Calgary Public Library (AB) Come Hell or High Water

Read more about all the Top Innovators at

About the Palo Alto City Library
Palo Alto has five branch libraries and offers a variety of programs to library users of all ages, interests, and abilities, to provide educational, self-help, recreational, technological, and multi-lingual outreach.  The library also provides opportunities for the public to access a variety of technologies, both inside and outside library facilities, and a diverse selection of print and digital resources.  Learn more at

About the Urban Libraries Council
As a membership organization made up of America’s premier public library systems and the organizations that serve them, the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) has spent more than 40 years enriching urban communities by strengthening their public libraries. While ULC members primarily represent urban and suburban libraries, lessons from their work are widely used by all libraries. ULC serves as a forum for thought leaders sharing best and next practices resulting from targeted research, education, and emerging trends. Our programs are recognized for creating new frameworks that invigorate public libraries and their communities.