The main floor of the Toronto Reference Library had a little more hubbub than usual on Wednesday as people, including Grade 7 and Grade 8 students from Jesse Ketchum Public School, gathered for the launch of the first Digital Innovation Hub.
In an effort for the library to remain relevant, this initiative brings technology like 3D printing and scanning, a green screen, DJ consoles, and video-editing software to a new space at the Toronto Reference Library. Anyone with a library card can sign out work stations or sign up for classes on how to use the new technology.
Acknowledging that this is new and unusual technology for a library to have, Toronto Public Library Board chair, Michael Foderick compares the pilot project to when computers were first brought to Toronto libraries.
“It was not so long ago that the idea of computers at a library was a novel idea. Some questioned whether it would work,” says Foderick. “It was a pilot project not that long ago too and it has worked fantastically. Look at how many people come into our branches now to use computers and we could say the same thing about e-books as well.”
Foderick goes on to say, “If the library had been a place which was just for books and nothing else we would already be a thing of the past but as you can see the library is as vibrant as ever.”
Wednesday’s launch featured demonstrations of the new tech features and allowed visitors to watch and try out the programs.
Jane Pyper, a city librarian involved with the project, believes people of all ages and backgrounds will be curious to see the new features for themselves.
“I think what we’re hearing is that a lot of people have heard of 3D printing or they’ve heard about audio and video editing but this is a really easy, safe, convenient, trusted way to get a little deeper,” Pyper says. “It’s not age based. You don’t have to be in school.”
The middle school students attending the launch appeared to take a particular liking to the 3D printers and iDJ consoles.
Both Foderick and Pyper stressed that they wanted to make this technology particularly accessible for people who cannot afford to have their own.
The cost to equip the Digital Innovation Hub was $44,000. The Metcalf Foundation donated $50,000 in order to fund the features that make it accessible, including the staff of instructors that will regularly hold workshops.
Greg Astill, one of the project leaders of the Digital Innovation Hub, was demonstrating 3D printing and scanning at the launch. While, he has been working on this project for a year now, he has worked for different aspects of the Toronto Library system since he was a teen. He has since worked in the broadcast, film, and print industry and was asked to lend his expertise to the initiative.
Astill says he started to wonder what the use for the 3D printer is.
“We started to see it when we started to bring some of the objects out. A nut and bolt that actually screws together. You start to see some of this stuff. People are printing things for medical procedures. You wouldn’t think that a 3D printer can do that but that’s how it’s kind of shifted it a little bit,” Astill says.
Foderick says that because it is a pilot project, they will be paying close attention to what aspects of the Digital Innovation Hub library patrons use most and least.
“If there’s certain aspects of them that people are using, you’re going to see more of that stuff,” Foderick says. “If there are things people aren’t using, that’s why it’s a pilot project.”
Two more hubs will be opening as part of the pilot. The next one will be at the new Fort York branch at Bathurst and Queens Quay later this winter and then at the new Scarborough Civic Centre branch later this year.