There's a world beyond books lurking in a corner of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library.
The modern, high-tech Makery space allows people to interact with state-of-the-art technologies that aren’t easily affordable – and gadgets they might not even know existed.
The library has officially reopened its Makery space after the pandemic forced it to shut down. And it offers NOTLers a chance to create things using state-of-the-art equipment.
“It gives people the opportunity to use things they wouldn’t normally be able to use,” Makery assistant Christine Reganti said during an open house on Thursday.
The space has been operating for a number of years and with the reopening comes the unveiling of some expensive gadgets, including a $4,500 3D printer and a $6,000 Glowforge.
The cost to use these expensive machines? Nothing, it's free.
“Not everyone has room for a Glowforge and not everyone has money for a Glowforge,” Reganti said.
“And not everyone wants to commit to buying something like this. What if you just want to do one project? Are you going to go out and spend $6,000?”
The Glowforge is a laser printer that can carve writing into a number of materials, from wood to certain kinds of metal. But it needs to be the right metal or else the laser could reflect off the material and damage the machine, Reganti said.
Not everything is free. For a limited time, the library is offering the use of its laminator.
"We normally don't offer the laminator as a service, but because of the vaccine passport we have been," Reganti said.
For a nominal fee of $2 visitors can have their vaccine passports laminated by library staff.
Indeed, there are some learning curves to using new technology like Glowforges and 3D printers. But laymen need not worry – not only are these items available for anyone gratis, the library will also give you free classes on how to use them.
If an individual wants to train on any of the new toys available in the Makery, they just need to call or email the library and a time will be set up for a one-on-one training session with Reganti.
Folks who want to make something using the 3D printer need only find the design they want on the website thingiverse.com and go into the library. All the materials needed for the printer and the machine itself will be free to use.
But, be forewarned — you might have to wait your turn.
When the open house started, the 3D printer was hard at work making a mask for a library employee’s kids’ halloween costume. The machine had been creating the mask for nearly 24 hours.
“But usually it only takes three hours or so,” Reganti assured onlookers. The time varies based on the complexity and size of the design, she said.
The revamped space also features a Cricut — a machine that uses 3D mapping to cut out any design on a piece of paper, fabric or vinyl, a high-speed photo scanner that can transfer hundreds of photos in minutes to a digital format, and a button maker.
In spite of these advanced technologies there was something more enticing, and more archaic, for visitors Betsy Masson and Ann Watson.
That was an old VHS to DVD converter. Reganti said the device is popular since it allows people to transfer home movies to a DVD and then to their computer for safe-keeping.
“I’d like to use that (VHS converter) myself. We’ve got a lot of home movies and old VHSes that I’d like to make sure are alright,” Masson said.
“We had a camera that had a VHS tape in it, so this would be perfect to use,” she said.
There are also a number of devices for kids including Bloxels, a mapping device that lets kids create their own video games, and Cubetto, a simple toy that teaches programming skills to youth.
Some of these gadgets are available for parents to take home as well, Reganti said.
All of the expensive equipment begs the question: how does the library afford to purchase and maintain it and not charge its customers a dime?
The generous residents of NOTL help with that, Reganti said.
The library accepts donations in many forms, but the easiest way to support the Makery is to bring a cash donation when you go to check out the facility. Other forms of donating can be found at notlpubliclibrary.org.
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report