Cady Fontana

Cady Fontana

Cady Fontana, a fifth-generation Ithacan, was born to coordinate the Makerspace in the Tompkins County Public Library 28 years later.

Growing up in Fall Creek, Cady still carries the TCPL card she received when she turned five. Her parents would pull her and her books in her red wagon. Every evening, Cady’s mom, Chris, would read books with her, and a love of books has been a constant throughout Cady’s life.

Cady also loved making things. “My Grandmother Kaaren Hoback taught me how to sew and make all kinds of things,” she says. “I’ve always been a maker: my Grandmother’s varied craft interests have inspired me to dabble and learn many creative skills.” 

By the time Cady was in high school, she was a TCPL regular, and it was logical that she would be one of the founding members of the Teen Advisory Board. “ I rounded up friends, and with guidance and support from Adelle, then-TCPL teen librarian, we enjoyed a teen book club and worked together to encourage high schoolers to visit the library.” 

Art was another theme in Cady’s youth which resonates in her work with the Makerspace: In high school, Cady chaired the 2008 Youth Empowerment Festival, themed Rock the Arts. “For one day, we rented the Commons and had teens playing music, acting and dancing. It was a blast.”

Setting her sights on the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Cady and her mother worked every weekend preparing scholarship applications. This financial project proved successful, and after graduating from Ithaca High School, Cady headed off to Boston to earn her bachelor’s degree in fiber art. For a summer, Cady joined Kelly, a TCPL youth services librarian, for Storytime in the Park and helped with summer reading outreach. By the time Cady graduated, she knew she wanted to combine her love of books and her love of art, so she headed to SUNY Buffalo to become a librarian. 

Cady’s master’s in library science went well, and best of all, she met her husband, Cap Cooke, while there. A bluegrass banjo player, Cap, too, is involved with TCPL nowadays. Cap’s band, The Flywheels, will be performing at the Creekwalk behind the library on Aug. 13 at 6:30 p.m.

After three years working as a librarian at a small rural library in Ovid, Cady knew she had made the right call on her profession. When she was offered a job in adult services at TCPL, Cady enthusiastically accepted.

One year in, Cady was offered the assignment of developing and coordinating the Makerspace. Libraries are all about access. People can come and read books, borrow some for a while, look at the permanent and visiting exhibits, check out movies and CDs. Most of us take for granted the wide array of valuable materials we can access. But now TCPL is making tools available, with instruction offered by enthusiastic staff: 3D Printers, sewing machines, a laser cutter, and plenty of craft supplies and hand tools. Patrons can use the tools and work on projects or join programs to make art and learn skills with others in group sessions.

“Reference librarians meet people searching for something,” Cady says. “We ask questions and find out what the searcher needs. Then we create a solution together. It’s the same with the Makerspace; art can inform other parts of our lives. As we talk through a creative idea with someone in the Makerspace, we figure out the tools needed and then help the maker take the next steps. I’m all about inspiring creative confidence, and love that my job gives me the opportunity to coach people artistically.”

A few exciting projects that folks have created so far: IC students created puppets for a presentation, an inventor prototyped puzzles that are now being mass produced, a local artist laser-printed artwork that was shown in Costa Rica, and a scientist even 3D-printed a scale model of the human esophagus.

Makerspace programs are popular, free and fill up quickly. “This is about making creative education through art available to more people,” Cady says. “We increase access to lifelong learning opportunities to anyone who comes to the library. Our goal is to equalize access, and get people excited about learning new things.”

Keep an eye on the programs coming up in the Makerspace by checking out the events calendar on TCPL.org.

Upcoming highlights include:

A puppet-making workshop with community artist Scott Hitz (for adults on Aug. 6, for families on July 25), a new art club for adults with developmental disabilities, All Access Art (eight weeks beginning on Tuesday, July 2, 1:30-3:30 p.m.), Teen Maker Thursdays (3-5 p.m. weekly), and tri-weekly ages 12-plus open hours (Mondays 12-4 p.m., Wednesdays 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., Fridays 2-6 p.m.). 

Also available from home: TCPL is offering unlimited access to the Creativebug database, which offers thousands of online art and craft video classes. You can access this library-funded service for free with your TCPL library card. Visit the Creativebug database to try it out.

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