The Tualatin Public Library is expanding its array of Makerspace equipment as it prepares for the fall and winter seasons.
One new addition is "Carvey," a three-dimensional carving machine made by Inventables, a Chicago-based company. The technology is paired with a simple online design interface that allows users to plan out their creations remotely, then upload them to the machine and watch as it produces them.
"In operation, it's very similar to a 3D printer, but in reverse," said Jerianne Thompson, Tualatin's library manager. "It's just a milling device, like people might have if they're into woodworking at home. But with the software, it's very easy for somebody who's new at woodworking or milling to be able to do that kind of a project."
Zach Kaplan, Inventables' chief executive officer, compared the two models.
"Printing, you're sort of building up the project layer by layer from scratch," he said. "Carving is the opposite — so you start with a block of material or a sheet of material, and then the machine carves away the parts you don't want."
Carving has its advantages over printing, Kaplan contended. It's faster than 3D printing, it can be used with a variety of materials and it allows for more interesting creations, he said.
"It's really versatile," he said.
Right now, Tualatin Library staff are still familiarizing themselves with Carvey. They're also working on what librarian Sarah Jesudason called a "library of things," which will be a collection of gadgetry, technology and even musical instruments that library patrons can check out in much the same way they would check out books, CDs and movies.
"That's going to come this fall. We have a little more back-end work to get our ducks in a row," Jesudason said. "But we've started with 'discovery kits' that have been checking out pretty successfully, and these are sort of the 'grown-up' next version."
Kaplan is pleased to see libraries like Tualatin adopting his company's technology. He said he sees the Tualatin Library as an "innovator," getting out ahead of what he believes will be a continuing trend toward libraries offering access to a broader range of materials.
"(Libraries) think of themselves as a center of knowledge in the community," Kaplan said, adding, "Now that the cost of books has gone way down and most people can afford them, libraries across the country are looking at, 'What's that next thing that we can bring more accessibility across the country?'"
He said, "A number of these libraries, they're building maker-spaces and maker-labs."
The Tualatin Library was closely involved with a team of partners that worked to have Tualatin crowned as one of "America's Best Communities" in a nationwide contest. Tualatin was one of eight finalists, but it missed the cut earlier this year when the top three finishers were announced and prizes of $1 million, $2 million and $3 million awarded.
Thompson and her staff are trying to keep building on the investments made as part of that competition, which saw the Tualatin team purchase and outfit a trailer as a "Mobile Makerspace." When the Washington County Cooperative Library Services system distributed extra revenue to member libraries this year, including Tualatin, Thompson saw an opportunity.
"As we were going into the summer, we started talking about what additional equipment could we have, what could we expand on, what did we see a need or an interest for, and we started looking this summer for things that we might be able to incorporate into a Makerspace without a space," Thompson said.
She added, "We opted to use (the WCCLS money) to buy some 'maker' equipment."
The America's Best Communities effort had a tight focus on engaging certain elementary grade levels with science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM). But Thompson said the library now wants to expand on that with STEAM activities for a broader age range.
"We're definitely planning to expand the ages for our programs," Thompson said. "With the Mobile Makerspace being part of the America's Best Communities process, we really had to focus last year, and we were only serving people that were in our target age group. But now, we'll be able to offer programs for teens and offer programs for adults, and that's where I see equipment like this coming in. ... It will be really exciting for those groups."
Kaplan said Carvey has applications that are relevant to adults. It can even produce wares that can be sold, he said.
"It's not just for kids or students. It's for adults and entrepreneurs too," he said. "They have one here at the Chicago Public Library, and I've been surprised to see how many entrepreneurs and engineers have come in, and they're rubbing shoulders with other folks at the library. It's pretty cool."
Library staff are looking to begin demonstrating the capabilities of Carvey and other equipment this fall. Thompson said they hope to make Carvey available for public use by early next year at the latest.
Blair Stenvick contributed to this report.
By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor, The Times
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