News Column

Library's new lab offers public high-tech capabilities

July 8, 2014

By Margaret Fosmoe, South Bend Tribune, Ind.



July 08--SOUTH BEND -- Local residents have a new place to go to craft audio and video projects, to digitize photos, and to convert old-style cassette and music albums for digital play and storage.

And they'll be able to create small plastic objects on a 3-D printer, too.

It's called Studio 304 and it's in the southeast corner of the first floor at the St. Joseph County Public Library, 304 S. Main St.

The new digital media laboratory opened quietly to the public last week. The official grand opening will be in September.

The lab offers technology -- and also will offer training -- to patrons to record and edit music, photos and video, to create digital scrapbooks and develop podcasts.

The 3-D printer sits just inside a wide bank of windows, and it's attracting lots of curious looks and some visits from library patrons. A 3-D printer is a device that takes a computer model, turns it into a series of thin layers, then builds the object one layer at a time out of plastic or another material.

A simple chain key ring takes about five minutes to print. A flexible plastic bracelet takes about 15 minutes. The most complicated object the library staff has created so far is a pencil holder, which took about seven hours to print.

For now, the 3D printer is being used for demonstrations. Patrons likely will be able to start using the device in September.

"The user can create their own design or get one online," said Laura Burch, one of the lab's two full-time employees.

When use of the 3-D printer goes public, there will be a project charge by weight: 10 cents per gram. A flexible bracelet, for example, would cost about 50 cents.

The lab was created in a room that formerly housed the library's Literacy & Outreach Services Department. That department has been mainstreamed into the collection throughout the library system.

The space has a dramatic new look. With an exposed concrete ceiling, a white oak-paneled wall and ironwork details, the room looks more a tech-oriented coffeehouse than an old-school public library.

The lab cost about $281,000 to create, including $186,000 for renovation, $65,000 for new furniture and equipment, and about $30,000 in architectural and interior design fees.

Beside the 3-D printer, the facility includes:

-- Computer stations to convert photos and negatives to digital files, transfer VHS tape to digital, and copy vinyl music albums and cassette tapes to digital files. The stations may be reserved for up to four hours.

-- Three audio studios and equipment to record music and podcasts, and a video recording studio. Studios may be reserved for two-hour blocks.

-- Four computers with software to edit projects and to create graphic designs.

-- Loans of equipment to be used outside the library, including video cameras, GoPro cameras, tri-pods, portable hard drives, a still camera and a green screen for video projects.

-- A color printer capable of printing projects up to 24 inches wide. The cost to print is $5 per linear foot.

-- A table with a large monitor for classes or collaborative projects, as well as a seating area with sofas and chairs for group sessions.

"The sheer awesomeness of what this lab offers drew us in," said Dan Lewis, who stopped by the lab with a colleague on Monday. He's an account executive for BX Films, a Mishawaka-based video production company.

He was impressed with the video and sound recording spaces, as well as the editing equipment. "The resources available (in the lab) are all you'd need to complete a project," Lewis said.

Peter Eggleson, of South Bend, stepped into the lab for a look after he noticed the 3-D printer through the window. He examined the work stations and asked questions about their capabilities.

"I'm very impressed. I'm certainly going to use the lab soon," Eggleson said. He wants to convert some cassette tapes to audio files and learn more about 3-D printing.

Anyone 14 and older can use the lab on their own. Those 13 and younger must be accompanied by an adult.

Digital media labs are becoming more common at public libraries across the country. "It's in line with our mission of being a community gathering space," Sights & Sounds department manager Marianne Kruppa said.

MFosmoe@SBTinfo.com

574-235-6329

Twitter: @mfosmoe

___

(c)2014 the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.)

Visit the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.) at www.southbendtribune.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: South Bend Tribune (IN)


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