Higher Tech Library Services

By John Swartz

The Orillia Public Library is the place to go to learn about things. Families use it. Students use it. But that’s not the end of it. One user group which often doesn’t have the library or librarians on their radar when they need help for projects where they could and should is small business.

Small business operators and those thinking of starting a business often overlook the critical mass of information they can utilize for free and there are librarians there to help you find exactly what you need. In the 21st century the library is also the place to go to test your ideas, make prototypes of your inventions, and prepare your marketing tools.

One of the rooms is being transformed into what they call their Makerspace.

“Over the last little bit we’ve been trying to consolidate all our equipment here because it was all over the place,” said library CEO Bessie Sullivan.

3D Printer

Currently they have a high quality photo printer, a 3D printer, a lightbox to make 3D images of anything that will fit on the computer controlled turntable synced to a camera, a stitcher/embroiderer, and a Cricut cutting plotter that will cut just about anything into just the shape you need.

Library staff have their eyes on some other gear people have been asking for. They’d like to get a flatbed scanner and a laser cutter/engraver among other things. They have a fundraising campaign this month with a target of $10,000 so they can get the equipment the public has been asking for. It’s not just the equipment, materials are needed as well.

“We have a list of things we need and we are working our way through it,” said Sullivan. “Some of it is supplies for this stuff.”

“Our list of needs is around $10,000 right now, but we can use materials into eternity, so if we make more than $12,000 we’ll be happy,” said Sullivan. The library does charge users for materials on a cost recovery basis, but the materials have to be available in the first place.

“This can be a real support to entrepreneurs and start up businesses,” and artists, hobbyists, and people who were into photography in ancient times. Who wouldn’t like to have a flatbed scanner to convert boxes of old photo negatives and slides to a digital format – but have you looked at how much scanners cost?

“That’s a perfect example of the type of things we’re looking to use in this space; expensive items or items that are cost prohibitive for the average user,” said Daniel Caschera, the library’s emerging technologies librarian. He’s the person you’d speak with first to get a handle on what the equipment can do, and how much material is needed to accomplish your goal. He’ll even train you how to use the equipment.

“I offer training from simple 3D design to importing existing files and scaling them up and how to operate this (equipment). There are technicalities and safety concerns. ” he said. “Users will be able to get certified on many of these devices and they can use it on their own schedule and their own time. ”

Both agree the advantage is with small businesses.

“If you are starting a business and you want to do some branding, you can do it all here. Eventually, if you are successful, you’ll want a company to do that,” said Sullivan. “If we fundraise like this, we can by these big ticket items that you would never pay for to have, so there’s sort of a cooperative usage.”

Donations can be made online, or by cash or cheque at the front desk. Donations over $20 get a tax receipt.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia; Images Supplied) Main: Daniel Caschera and Bessie Sullivan of the Orillia Public Library in the Makerspace room.


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