Library forges ahead with tech space

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Overhaul of computer center will make area for creative work

Denton’s North Branch Library expects to open a new, high-tech computer center in April, one that will allow artists to create new works and local entrepreneurs to engineer new designs, perhaps even build prototypes of their inventions.

An update on the library’s progress with the Forge — the name of a community “maker space” that will include a three-dimensional printer — and other initiatives came during a joint luncheon meeting Monday between the City Council and members of the library board.

“Anyone who tells you what libraries will be doing three years out is just bluffing,” said Terri Gibbs, Denton’s director of libraries. “We are really in a period of transition now.”

The Denton Public Library has nearly completed its overhaul of the North Branch computer lab, which is bringing in high-powered computers, software, peripherals and training for more sophisticated users along with standard computers that offer basic access.

Some creative work requires technology resources too costly for most individuals to purchase and maintain. While a few Texas cities have membership-based maker spaces, the library staff has found very little is publicly available in Denton.

The library recently completed a strategic plan that will help it address community needs. Library officials surveyed the public and met both with the staff and select patrons, who use the library weekly, to put the plan together, Gibbs said.

The library will still offer basic services the community has come to depend on, such as basic literacy and computer literacy programs, Gibbs said. But the planning process outlined the need for other educational services in the community.

A new staff member is serving as a liaison to community businesses so that owners know about and can tap the full range of resources at the library, Gibbs said.

The staff is also starting a “human library” to help put knowledgeable people in touch with those who want to tap that knowledge through free classes at the library.

“I’m not sure the people will be ‘cataloged,’ but certainly there will be a programming element to it,” Gibbs said.

The library staff has been working on local collections, too, by dedicating shelves to local authors and helping composers and authors distribute materials through Overdrive, a digital library of books and music.

Within the Forge, the library plans to offer the equipment and training people need for sound and music recording and editing, podcasting, video editing, digital art, and computer hardware and software design. Users will also be able to design objects and output prototypes on a 3-D printer for testing.

The Forge is expected to cost the library about $13,000, which includes purchasing the 3-D printer and a year’s worth of supplies.

The classes and the equipment would be available for free to library users, although staff said they would likely charge a fee for 3-D printing to recoup some costs, similar to the small fee for making photocopies.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.


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