Delaware libraries inspire with new gadgets

 A Makerbot Replicator 3D printer in action at the library in Wilmington. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

A Makerbot Replicator 3D printer in action at the library in Wilmington. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

3D printers, LEGO robots, lights, cameras and lots of action. Today’s Delaware library is much more than a place to find books.

T.S. Eliot once called the existence of libraries “the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.” That future is on display at Inspiration Spaces inside a handful of Delaware libraries.

The libraries offer residents the chance to use some high tech gear to make, create and discover new skills, according to Inspiration Space Coordinator at Delaware Libraries Alta Porterfield.

“Just helping people push themselves from where they’re at to what they dream of, or what they’re thinking of, and really helping them wherever they want to go.”

After grant funding for job centers in the libraries ran out, library leaders came up with the idea to transform that job center space into Inspiration Space. “We’re still helping entrepreneurs, small business,” said Porterfield.

Perhaps the most eye-catching feature in the inspiration spaces are several 3D printers located at a handful of libraries statewide. For the uninitiated, the library’s Sarena Fletcher explains: “It is basically a machine that can print plastic. It melts plastic and prints it out into different shapes.”

The printers can be used to make just about anything you can think of, from the practical (like replacement parts for the printer itself) to whimsical (like little plastic Darth Vader heads).

“It can be used for a lot of things,” said Fletcher. “In the Lewes library, they printed a toilet roll holder, in the Laurel public library they printed some [microphone] holders for their events so it can sit somewhere and people don’t have to hold them. Really, your imagination is the limit.

The Dover Public Library’s Inspiration Space is also home base for a Lego robotic team. It’s a chance for kids to learn about programming and problem solving said the library’s Kerri Hollyday. “You have to think about programming your robot to push something, pull something, [or] carry something. This year they have to throw something.”

The library in Dover also uses the computer game Minecraft to teach things like math, geography and more. “The really cool thing about the Minecraft that we have called Minecraft EDU, where we can log in as teacher and monitor them,” said Hollyday. “We can do challenges, you can put math blocks in there where you have to solve problems.”

There are also computers available with programs like Photoshop and SketchUp along with other software, and even drawing tablets for artists. “We have a green screen here, and several of the libraries do, with cameras that a person can actually use here at the library to take pictures or videos,” said Porterfield.

The goal of the space is to help residents develop new skills in creative areas. “There’s a lot of community help and effort,” said Porterfield. “We’re a community in this small state and we can help each other.”

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