Main Library’s Maker Space Lets Public Design, Build, Explore, Create • Long Beach Post

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David Hedden, a Studio Guide, works on a design next to the MakerBot 3-D printer. Photos by Sarah Bennett


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Walk into the new maker space on the bottom floor of the Main Library in Downtown Long Beach and it’s hard not to feel like you’ve walked into another world, one far from the page-filled shelves and basic PC stations sitting just outside its doors.

On the movable table in the center of the small main room are tablet computers, hand-built robots and plastic iPhone cases that are light as air but sturdy as Legos. In a room off on the right are computers loaded with Final Cut and a simple television studio that links directly back to Long Beach’s public access station. And in the back corner of the main space is a nearly $3000 machine that takes designs from a computer and turns them into actual physical objects right before your very eyes.

Welcome to The Studio, the city’s first maker space, part of the Long Beach Public Library system’s vision to make their branches more than just quiet places to study. By incorporating the technology-based DIY ethos of the Maker Movement into public spaces, progressive cities and institutions around the world are providing places where patrons of all ages can let their imaginations run wild.

“It’s about getting people to design their own things and think of themselves as makers,” says Francisco Vargas, LBPL’s Director of Programming, who oversaw the planning and implementation of The Studio.

Last year, LBPL received a grant from the Knight Foundation to provide access to technology to the public for free, a broad scope that Vargas narrowed down with his concept for The Studio.

With some additional funds from the Long Beach Public Library Foundation, the library purchased 16 tablets—8 iPads and 8 Surfaces—and four high-powered desktop computers, filling them each with the Adobe Suite and 3-D design software that are all linked to the cloud. Then they bought enough video equipment and editing programs to turn a portion of the space into a satellite studio for PADNET, the city’s public access television station. The Studio’s crowning jewel, however, is the MakerBot, a 3-D printer that turns spools of colorful corn starch and recycled-plastic filament into everything from engraved rings to prosthetic hands.

And don’t worry if all of this technology sounds like a foreign language—the room also comes equipped with David Hedden and Kenny Allen, two Studio Guides who are trained to help newbie’s navigate the cutting-edge amenities.

thestudioLBPL2“Say one of your oven knobs goes missing,” Vargas explains. “You could bring in one of the remaining ones and we can map it [using the 3-D design programs] and make a replacement really quickly. The possibilities for what could be done here are literally endless.”

Though some maker spaces are geared towards children and teenagers, the beauty of The Studio is that it’s not an age-specific space. Everything is available to any and all members of the public anytime during open hours and everything—from the array of sample MakerBot-made items on the table to the annual subscription to Make Mag—has been specially curated to inspire all who walk in to start designing, exploring and creating.

“A lot of libraries make the mistake of saying, ‘This is just for teens,’” says Vargas, “But you need everybody to utilize a space like this—mentors, beginners, intermediates who are still learning. It gives it more depth.”

Starting this week, The Studio will be open for free-form public use, though a growing amount of workshops will soon be frequently filling the space, many of them hopefully taught by local community members who want to share their knowledge and become so-called “makers-in-residence.”

Classes already planned include beginners coding and 3-D printing and design, the latter of which will teach people how to use an open-source 3-D modeling software for designs that can then be printed on the MakerBot (or, for larger pieces, taken to a fabrication shop for production).   

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A selection of items designed in The Studio and printed on the MakerBot.

The Main Library’s Studio is also just the first of what Vargas envisions as a series of maker spaces placed at branches throughout Long Beach. Each will focus on a different creative or technology aspect, from robotics to graphic design.

A wish list on the wall already hints to the possibilities, listing items like vinyl cutter, jeweler’s tools, GoPro camera and soldering kit.  

“The idea is to take people’s passions and let them run with it,” Vargas says. 

The Studio is located downstairs at the Main Library, 101 Pacific Ave. For more information on hours and classes, visit http://www.lbpl.org

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