The days when stern librarians stared down patrons and shushed them to be quiet are gone.
Thanks to a $120,000 provincial grant, work is underway at the Sarnia Public Library to create an innovative lab where people of all ages can shape ideas using cutting-edge technologies.
Lambton County Library Branch Services Manager Laurel van Dommelen said the ‘Makerspace’ is part of a growing trend.
“Libraries want to offer more than just books in order to have a wider appeal to the public-at-large,” van Dommelen said.
“We want people to experience this technology first hand.”
When the Internet ushered in electronic access to information, naysayers predicted the death of books and the end of public libraries. But proactive libraries with creative programming took the electronic age in stride, and are engaging more people than ever.
Public library ‘maker spaces,’ as they are referred to, are places where anyone with a library card can stay abreast of what the information highway has to offer.
Phase one of Makerspace is set for completion at the end of May. Along with electrical upgrades and a fresh coat of paint — possibly a navy and orange combo— the second floor of the library will feature 10 stations made to engage.
They will feature a laser cutter, a 3D printer, robotics — including moveable Legos, and a computerized sewing machine that can take a project from start to finish.
Patrons can program the devices or download computerized patterns and programs, which are virtually limitless. Use of the devices is free-of-charge but patrons pay for their own materials.
Technology workshops will be held and many online courses are also available.
“It’s a big learning curve for all of us,” van Dommelen noted. “The technology the public can access is pretty amazing.”
But there’s more to Sarnia’s Makerspace than just the technology story.
An all-inclusive “meeting place” is also part of the target. According to van Dommelen, the library will provide space for various citizen and special interest groups, ranging from quilters to service clubs to church organizations.
“It’s a place for new ideas,” she said. “We want people to hang out and spend time here. We are a community work space.”
Next year, the second phase of Makerspace will see the county take its technology show on the road, bringing the innovative program to branches throughout Lambton County.
The project is funded by the Ministry of Tourism and Sport.
Lending tool libraries, video equipment, community gardening, e-devices and access to the world’s knowledge banks are a few of the other ways libraries are increasing their appeal.
“People are accessing information and reading in different ways,” van Dommelen explained. “We want to think we are a community workspace.”