When it unveiled its first two 3D printers on Tuesday morning, the Toronto Public Library solidified its reputation as both the city’s nerdiest and best institution. The Makerbot Replicator 2 printers are part of a new $44,000 digital media lab at the Reference Library that includes 3D scanners, Arduino kits, Raspberry Pi computers, hi def video cameras, and audio mixers. The Reference Library plans to offer programming classes, demonstrations, and workshops, and will host a repair lab where people can bring in their broken tech items and participants can learn how to fix them.
The Reference Library will also be welcoming the Toronto Mini Maker Faire, which has previously been held at Wychwood Barns, on November 22 and 23, 2014.
Jane Pyper, the City’s top librarian, says the investment reflects a broader trend toward more experiential modes of learning, but stresses it’s in keeping with the library’s history and mandate. “Libraries have always been about support learning in all its forms,” she says, pointing out that the library has provided DVDs, CDs, Internet service, and e-materials as technology and expectations have evolved. “And libraries have also been about bringing people together, particularly around equity of access.”
While Pyper spoke with Torontoist, a class of schoolchildren watched as a 3D printer started layering plastic to make a chess piece, and other kids played around with 3D-modelling software and checked out some finished products, like a fine-tooth comb and a Toronto Public Library 3D-printed key fob.
As part of establishing the Digital Innovation Hub, the library reached out to the maker community in Toronto—including Hacklab and Site3—to solicit suggestions. Eric Boyd, the co-founder of StumbleUpon, is president of Kensington’s Market’s Hacklab, which has partnered with the library to facilitate outreach. “Programming is the new literacy,” said Boyd, wearing an LED necklace that flashed every time he spoke. “If you want to be a citizen of the modern digital world, you need to have a basic understanding of the way that the machines work. So I’m super excited about something like the learn-to-code workshops.”
To use the library’s 3D printers, patrons must complete a 30-minute certification session that covers rules and safety. The printer uses PLA plastic filament, and costs are five cents a minute plus a $1 surcharge (which pays for the plastic) for each print.