This week, the Warwick Public Library will officially unveil their new Idea Studio at an open house on Saturday.
The studio officially opened six weeks ago on Oct. 1, after the summer was used to transform the former café into the new lab. Saturday’s open house, which occurs from noon to 3 p.m., will allow the public to see demonstrations of the new equipment. There will also be crafts and activities for all ages, as well as a showcase of some of the projects done at workshops in the studio over the past few weeks.
“It’s been great to turn the café into something totally different,” said Library Director Diane Greenwald.
The studio was made possible by a grant from The Champlin Foundations, a large supporter of libraries. Greenwald explained that the Warwick Public Library has received grants from the Foundation every year for the past few years.
After applying in December, the library received two grants totaling $108,000 to use for the studio, as well as upcoming improvements for early literacy in the children’s library.
The library received the grants in February, with work on the space beginning this summer, including wiring the floor to provide electricity directly to the new computer tables, cleaning the space, purchasing and setting up equipment and software, and installing a new floor to cover the cement.
Evan Barta, coordinator of technology for the library, explained that this room is not just another computer lab. It provides unique technology and software not available in other parts of the library, and will allow for unique and creative workshops.
“We already have two meeting rooms,” said Barta, explaining how the staff came up with this idea. “We felt we could have done more for the community with a room like this.”
The new facility allows patrons access to software they did not have before, such as the complete Adobe Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, Dreamweaver, etc.) and the programs associated with Mac computers such as iMovie. The lab has two Mac desktop computers, as well as a number of Dell laptops that are used for classes.
One popular feature of the new studio is the digital conversion equipment, which allows the public to transfer their vinyl records (33”, 45” or 78”), VHS tapes and cassette tapes to digital files to put on a flash drive or CDS.
“We didn’t originally plan to do this,” said Barta, explaining that he came up with the idea when he attended an American Library Association conference. Across the country, libraries are incorporating this technology into their new digital media rooms.
Barta says the equipment has been popular with a number of people coming in to transfer their old home movies to digital files, as well as old records.
Another popular piece of equipment in the new studio is the 3D printer, which takes a template from a digital file and creates a plastic physical object from it.
“It started with nothing, and builds it up layer by layer,” explained Barta.
The printer can be used to create a variety of small but useful objects, such as plastic covers, hooks, small figures, cookie cutters and much more. Barta has even used the printer during a workshop on making miniature computers.
Smaller items can take between 10 and 15 minutes to make, where as larger items could take up to an hour.
Barta said that having the 3D printer, which costs close to $2,200, in the library allows people who would never otherwise have access to one the opportunity to use it. Individuals can easily download templates from the Internet to use, or design their own. The cost of printing something is only 5 cents an ounce, so Barta says it provides the opportunity to create small items at a low cost.
“If you’re a hobbyist, you just want to play with it, you’re not going to buy one,” said Barta.
Barta hopes to make connections to people who are really talented and interested in Computer Aided Design (CAD) to provide expanded workshops when it comes to the 3D printer.
“We just have to take it slow, trying to add common interests,” said Barta about future possibilities for the space.
In addition to the new software and equipment, the Idea Studio will now play host to the library’s 12 to 15 monthly computer classes, which are taught by Barta. Barta explained that the classes were previously taught in a small room toward the back of the library so this space is much better.
There will also be specialized workshops every so often, one each month specifically for teens and another for children. For example, this month a community member worked with Barta to design a comic drawing workshop for teens.
“It’s great when you have someone in the community to share skills,” said Barta. “I don’t feel there is anything too ridiculous to do in here.”
Other events include a Minecraft computer game club for kids, a Retro Video Game Night, and an upcoming craft workshop to create wreaths out of damaged and recycled books.
Barta did point out that they are avoiding letting the room be used as just another meeting room. If someone requests the space, it would have to be for a meeting or workshop that benefits from and uses the space properly.
Looking down the road, Barta says the library staff has a lot of ideas for the studio, including science workshops for kids, or providing more video production and photography classes and equipment.
The studio is also open three days a week for four hours for the general public to come in, use the equipment (with guidance from Barta or another library employee if needed) and ask questions about general computer help with things such as social media, email, Microsoft and Mac products, and even resume writing. Those hours are Tuesday from noon to 4 p.m., Wednesday 2 to 6 p.m. and Thursday 3 to 7 p.m.