Member of the Month

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Patrick FerrellPatrick Ferrell
Innovation Lab Trainer, Clear Lake City-County Freeman Branch Library, Harris County Public Library

Professional experience
My formal education and professional background is in engineering and physics, and I worked in the fields of semiconductors, vacuum systems, and particle accelerators. My greatest challenge and privilege was becoming a stay-at-home dad, as my wife had better benefits, and I was the better cook. When our daughters entered the upper grades and it was time to consider my next steps, I discovered our local public library was looking to hire an assistant for their soon-to-open makerspace. After years of visiting the Clear Lake City-County Freeman Branch Library, for the first time ever, I ventured beyond the Children's Area and went upstairs — for a job interview.

I joined Harris County Public Library in December 2014, and soon after we opened the Jocelyn H. Lee Innovation Lab, the first dedicated public library makerspace in southeast Texas.  Nearly two years later, I'm still not quite sure how circulation works and my coworkers can go into the stacks blind and retrieve books faster than I can look up a call number; but just a few weeks ago I helped a patron put an item on hold, so perhaps I'm making progress.

Innovative library practices
Many of things look innovative compared to the libraries of my childhood, but the evolving role of the library to provide generative spaces, such as our Innovation Lab and similar initiatives, is particularly striking.  As a youngster, I would beg to go to the main branch of the Corpus Christi Public Library — a friend and I were building a laser based on an old Scientific American article, and we sought out ideas in whatever additional books and magazines we could find.  Today patrons still come in search of knowledge, but now they're also coming to access a range of tools and technologies, like that laser we were trying to build, to actually make things right here in the library.

In the 18 months our space has been open, students have printed award-winning science presentations, families have bonded while laser-cutting model parts, and inventors have built prototypes and launched small businesses. Best of all, they have been encouraging each other along the way, sharing their passions, and building a community of patrons who recognize the makerspace as a vital part of, not apart from, regular library services.

Favorite book
I grew up on science fiction, but perennial favorites later included Steinbeck's Travels with Charley and Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  However, my desert-island author will always be Richard Feynman. He may not count as literary, but he certainly was a character.

Most memorable TLA experience
Since we are in Houston, the host city for 2016 TLA Annual Conference, we said 'yes' to supporting several maker events, including: an exhibit booth in the morning, a hands-on circuit activity after lunch, and an electrified billboard for the afternoon's poster session. Thank goodness for wonderful volunteers and our Branch Manager, Jim Johnson, for pulling it all together.

Being named a TLA Member of the Month is itself a memorable honor, and I am indebted to my HCPL colleagues and administration, along with our dedicated volunteers, for their continued support and contributions to the success of the Jocelyn H. Lee Innovation Lab.

Created on May 31, 2016 | Last updated February 01, 2017