Hacking. It’s not that I don’t like it or think it’s a bad idea. It’s that I haven’t quite internalized the phrase. Hacking. 

It sounds like something my cat once did, not the cusp of the new Maker movement. So for the uninitiated (of which I count myself one) here’s a quickie crash course: To hack something is to rethink and reimagine it. Maybe to approach it in a new way.

All this brings us to Hackstudio, here in Evanston. If you’ve driven up Green Bay Road on your way to Wilmette, you might have noticed a garage-like structure with a lovely big sign out front. Inside you encounter a cavernous space full of activity. What precisely is going on?  Never the same thing twice. A visit to their website may raise more questions than answers, so I’ll endeavor to explain.

Imagine that there was a location where kids could go to make stuff, come up with ideas, and basically create, create, create. Whether it’s a birdhouse or a piece of art or a new invention, you’re going to need space, right? You’re probably going to need some help as well. Imagine there’s a place to do that. Now there is, and it’s way more than just shop class.

The site describes itself this way: “Hackstudio is a program in Evanston, Illinois where kids come together with their supportive peers for two hours every week to learn how to succeed by being who they are. Kids define their own projects from scratch, work to get them done and learn who they are by confronting the obstacles they encounter along the way.”  

Sure, they’ll supply some help, but there are some rules in place. Everyone helps with everyone else’s project.

This is a collaborative space and while you may walk in with just your own project in mind, soon you’ll be making connections with other people and their projects. And that’s the kind of thing that leads to experimentation and new ideas.

Their website is good but I was most pleased to see that their website displays a list of book titles, saying, “We recommend these titles to anyone looking to dive deeper into the concepts that built Hackstudio.” Happily, you can pick up most of these here at Evanston Public Library. Here are five starter titles:
• “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
• “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” by Brené Brown
• “Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will” by Dale J. Stephens
• “The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom: [Why the Meaningful Life is Closer Than You Think]” by Jonathan Haidt
• “I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame” by Brené Brown.
Hackstudio is located at 2510 Green Bay Rd. For more information on programs see hackstudio.com.

Betsy Bird is the Collection Development Manager of Evanston Public Library. She has been writing for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.