Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Webinar: Makerspace at Cleveland Public Library


Rebecca and John sat in on a presentation about the "TechCentral" computer lab/makerspace/tech toy box at the Cleveland Public Library.

Here are the highlights:

Tech Central is really 2 spaces in the library: as you enter, you are greeted by a 70" display and the "tech toy box" -- a petting zoo of mobile devices that can also be checked out.

Turn to the left and you enter a flexible learning space, complete with laptop bar, group work tables, a smartboard, and projector (this is where they hold classes and events).

Turn to the right and you are in the computer area. All the public computers in the library have been brought into one space. They have 80 Windows computer, 5 Macs, and 5 Ubuntu (LINUX) computers. Applications installed include Office, Audacity (sound editing), GIMP (image creation), iLife (on the Macs: GarageBand, iMovie, etc.), and OpenShot (video editor). They also have power outlets galore for people who bring their own device.

Staff at TechCentral wear orange "lab coats" so they are easily identifiable. The staff are tech-savvy and also serve as instructors for classes and one-on-one help. (Customers can "check out" an assistant for an hour at a time.)

An intriguing service that TechCentral offers is "myCloud." With this service, customers can check out a laptop and save stuff to their own account on the library's servers. These are set up as virtual desktops, so customers get the full Windows computer experience (the ability to customize, save, and install software applications) without needing their own computer.  (It should be noted that this is the only service of TechCentral that requires customers to take an introductory class before they can use it.)

The makerspace aspect of TechCentral includes "maker kits" that can be checked out. These include products for building simple machines and circuits or music (Little Bits, K'NEX, Korg Monotrons and Snap Circuits).  Using myCloud, library staff and customers can install and use software to which they would not normally have access.

They market this space to 20-30 yr olds, and the 12 Tech Central staff also teach classes and bring mobile aspects of Tech Central (like the toy boxes) to the branches. Upcoming programming includes making your own holiday cookie cutters with the 3-d printer. 

Coming soon to Tech Central: dedicated music productions stations, computers for audio-visual and videogame creation, micro-bug building, and laser cutters.

TechCentral web page on the Cleveland Public Library website: http://www.cpl.org/TheLibrary/SubjectsCollections/TechCentral.aspx

- John L. and Rebecca R.

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