By Rino Landa, Maker Studio Coordinator, Clearwater Public Library System
The zipping and whirling of a 3D printer welcomed U.S. Representative Charlie Crist to the Clearwater (Fla.) Public Library’s Maker Studios in mid-July. The bright blue plastic filament was steadily building the 700th print job submitted by patrons at the Innovation Studio – one of five makerspaces at the Main Library. During Rep. Crist’s visit, the Clearwater Maker Studios showcased some of the ways libraries around the country are adapting to the growing technology, business, and creative needs of their communities through the creation of makerspaces.
The event came about after the Congressman’s interest was piqued at a National Library Week event in Washington, D.C., with the ALA, District of Columbia Public Library and the Congressional Maker Caucus. But there’s no place like home, and it was our pleasure to illustrate how one of our representative’s home libraries is transforming with and for our patrons.
While the 3D printer worked, Rep. Crist learned about its value. Since 2015, when 3D printing debuted as a service, Clearwater library patrons have prototyped inventions, designed toys for gifts, and copied family heirlooms, just to name a few examples. Rep. Crist could see the ingenuity of Clearwater patrons as dozens of printed prototypes were showcased: the result of countless redesigns, re-prints, and brainstorming sessions — many facilitated by library staff during scheduled drop-in hours. The congressman learned how the Innovation Studio works to lower entry costs for eager entrepreneurs of all ages and encourages life-long learning, especially in high-demand science and technology fields, through the 3D printing service and a variety of business and technology classes.
Our tour continued to the Multimedia Studio, which houses professional camera and lighting equipment targeted for quick video productions. The Studio is popular among small business owners looking to produce marketing videos, local authors recording voice-over work, and students looking to sharpen their Adobe Creative Cloud skills. A good sport, Rep. Crist posed in front of the Multimedia Studio’s green screen to take a picture, and keenly followed a live demonstration of how his picture could be instantly placed into a variety of backdrops – he requested one of Clearwater’s famous beach.
The final stop was the Heritage Studio. Upon entering, Rep. Crist was surprised by a tabletop covered in old projectors and delighted by a collection of original Florida Highwaymen paintings. The projectors and paintings hinted at the goals of the Heritage Studio: to interact with, preserve, and share the past. The projectors are part of six specialized digitization stations housed in the Heritage Studio: the print station for scanning photographs, negatives, scrapbooks, and slides; the video station for converting VHS, hi8, miniDV, and VHS-C; the audio station for converting reel-to-reel audio, vinyl records, and audio cassettes; and three projector stations for capturing 16mm, 8mm, and Super 8 film to digital formats. Patrons have been delighted to re-experience precious family moments – from weddings to funerals – often hearing long-gone relatives for the first time. Libraries and historical societies around the country bring specialized tools and professional support to preserve the personal and local histories of their communities. We encouraged the Congressman to bring his own materials for digitization anytime.
As is often the case, Rep. Crist couldn’t stay long. We didn’t get a chance share our Creation Studio, which specializes in arts and crafts for adults, or the Discovery Studio, a space with science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) gadgets and toys for children ages 6-12.
But we did make an impression. Our congressman now has a better sense of the value of public investments in public libraries to support local entrepreneurship, life-long learning, and preserve history. As we heard at National Library Legislative Day, advocacy is a year-round activity. The best way for legislators to understand the value of our libraries and library staff is to see us in action! We appreciate Congressman Crist’s interest and support.