St. Thomas Public Library has two brand new 3D Printers! Come in and check out our new Lulzbots. These models are an upgrade from our previous Cube models: You will find them easier to use, they can print using many different filament materials, and more colour options are available. You can even bring in your own filament and 3D print for free! (Prints normally cost 10 cents per gram).
What have people been up to on the new printers? Right now the trend is fidget spinners. Print a cap and a shell and then add your own weights for a custom spinner that no one else will have! You can find hundreds of designs like these ones on Thingiverse:
Also exciting: You can watch what people are printing live on our new Twitch channel! The channel switches between our two printers so you can watch a 3D print in progress. See if you can guess what each print will be!
To learn how to use our Lulzbots, join one of our 3D Printing Certification Sessions. Check our online calendar for session dates. You can register online with your library card, or drop by the Adult Information Desk to sign up. If you can’t make a Certification Session, we now have the option of booking a One on One Session. Ask at the Adult Information Desk and we’ll find a time for a staff member to assist you!
Stay tuned for more changes to Creators’ Community. We’re currently working on a Creators’ Corner, a welcoming work space to accommodate new classes and allow better access to our resources!
You’ve probably heard the buzzword before: “Makerspace!” But what exactly is a Makerspace, and why should the library even care about them? Well, I want to answer these questions, and talk about why the “Maker Movement” is important to public libraries.
Put simply, a Makerspace is a community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, technology, science, as well as digital and electronic art, can meet and collaborate. Makerspaces are often fee- or subscription-based, and this is where some public libraries have been able to meet the needs of their communities: by offering Makerspace equipment, programming, and spaces at low cost to the general public. The themes of lifelong learning and collaboration are present in both the Makerspace and Public Library mission statements, and so they are a natural partnership.
Some Makerspaces are stand-alone facilities, such as London’s UnLab and Kitchner’s KwartzLab. These facilities are normally accessible 24/7 and are not actively staffed. Rather, customers pay a subscription fee to use the resources at their leisure. Customers work on self-directed projects, and have their own working knowledge of the tools and technologies available. Another type of stand-alone Makerspace is one that is geared towards children, such as Toronto’s Maker Kids. Maker Kids is also a subscription-based model, but they have staff on-hand at all times to assist the users, and lead programs and activities.
Many libraries are integrating Makerspaces into their services, using different models. The Toronto Public
Library’s Digital Innovation Hub has a technology focus, and requires that their patrons be somewhat self-directed; staff are not there to hand-hold through projects. However, they do have staff who offer “certification” classes, that provide customers with the basics of how to use their resources. Other libraries are more engaged, such as Innisfil Public Library’s IdeaLab. They allow experimentation, but also guidance when using their tools, which include a laser cutter. Another way that libraries are getting involved is by offering programs and activities using “maker kits”. This allows library patrons to experience new technologies, but without forcing the library to set aside a great deal of time and money towards a larger-scale project.
At St. Thomas Public Library, we have been fortunate to receive a donation of $50,000 from the Palmer Estate to help fund our own “Makerspace”, which we have branded our “Creators’ Community“! We foresee a model that blends together some of the aspects that other libraries are using: we want to offer 3D printers and audiovisual equipment to the public, as well as provide some training on how to use them. In addition, we will also offer in-house programs and activities using maker kits (such as Makey Makey, Arduino, Snap Circuits, etc), as well as integrate these technologies into our outreach activities. We believe that it is important to cultivate a strong sense of digital and technological literacy, as these skills are becoming increasingly important in our modern society.
When can you expect to see some “maker” programming at the library? We hope to have programs up and running as early as June! We want to give the St. Thomas community access to 3D printing technology, and foster some creative collaboration through new tech tools and programs.
Have you seen our computer lab? Located on our lower level across from the circulation desk, the computer lab is a quiet room equipped with ten new computers. It’s an ideal space for holding group computer classes or doing online training. In fact, we use the computer lab for our popular new computer skills workshops. Feel like you want to sharpen your computer skills? Check out our June workshop offerings:
Tuesday, June 17, 10 am-noon: Microsoft Word Basics
An introduction to word processing functions such as pagination, font, inserting graphics, printing and keyboard shortcuts. Includes information about creating PDF files for publication and distribution.
Thursday, June 19, 6-8 pm: Safe & Savvy Web Browsing
An introduction to basic network architecture, web browsing, web addresses, and web domains. Students discover various types of malware, how to mitigate against malware, and best password practices.
Registration is required for workshops. Register by calling 519-63106050 ext. 8013 or in person at the Adult Information Desk, main level.
The computer lab has also become home to a new Lego Mindstorm Robotics program. Students from St. Joseph’s Catholic High School Renaissance Robotics Team volunteer with kids ages 9-11 to build and program Lego Mindstorms NXT robots. The volunteers bring the robots and we supply the computers and space. We’ll be running this program July 15th and 16th, and again on August 11th and 12th. Register your child by calling 519-631-6050 ext. 8015 or drop by the Children’s & Teens’ Information Desk.
Do you have a meeting that requires access to several computers? You can book our lab! The rates can be free, $25 per hour or $50 per hour depending on how you will use the room. For more information about booking the computer lab, call us at 519-631-6050 ext. 8011.
If you, a friend, or a family member has ever expressed an interest in learning more about computing, this topic may be of interest to you. A nonprofit organization in the UK has designed and built a computer that is about the size of a credit card, with the specific goal of empowering young people and enthusiasts to learn and experiment. Called the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the development of hardware and specific projects has been spurred on by an active and dedicated community of beginners, experts, and even children!
The finished product has been available for just under a year now, and the results have been inspiring. Children as young as eight have programmed games, the device has been used as a controller for homemade robots, and people have found ways to make media players and household automation devices. There are many more examples, and new ideas are always being put forward. For ordinary users, the device should be powerful enough for general web-surfing and media playback.
In order to make it accessible to as many people as possible, the device itself is fairly inexpensive ($25 or $35 depending on the features you want), and can be powered and setup with things that many people have in the home. A television can be used as a display, a phone charger supplies power, and USB keyboards and mice should have no problem working with it. Free software for the device is available from the Foundation’s website, which also hosts forums for users to ask questions and share ideas.
We have all seen smart phones that pack more power into a (slightly) smaller space, but the hardware and software on them is not always open to modification. Lacking a case and having pins for expansion, the Raspberry Pi was built for people of all ages who want to learn and tinker. Initiatives like these are especially exciting for young people, as technical skills and programming know-how will always be in demand. The initial learning curve may be steep for those without Linux experience, but the forums contain plenty of information for beginners. The open platform and active community provide for an excellent learning opportunity.