L AFAYETTE — The local library has long been a place where a kid might go for crafts, perhaps a Christmas star ornament pieced together with Popsicle sticks or a construction paper Valentine’s card for mom.
The Lafayette Public Library is taking that concept to the next level with a 3-D printer, electronic kits and instruction in such skills as video game design and photo manipulation.
What’s being called a “makerspace” gets a trial run this summer at the South Regional Library on Johnston Street and will find a more permanent home at the renovated main branch downtown, which is scheduled to reopen later this year or in early 2015.
“Makerspace is just about creating something, whether you are doing it with your hands or doing it with a computer,” said Lafayette Public Library System Director Sona Dombourian.
The library branched out from the printed page years ago, offering wireless Internet, computer labs, e-books and classes on everything from genealogy to business software.
Dombourian said adding what amounts to a test lab for new technology is just an extension of what the library has done for years — encouraging lifelong learning and offering patrons something they might not have the resources to access on their own.
“You may have a computer at home and you may have a printer, but you probably don’t have a 3-D printer,” Dombourian said of a device that can literally print three-dimensional objects based on a computer model.
She said the library also plans to purchase “inventors kits” designed to teach the basics of electronics.
“These are educational tools that make learning and understanding electronics fun,” Dombourian said. “Who knows what they can create or what they can invent?”
The 3-D printer is being set up this month at the South Regional Library, where patrons can get an idea later this summer of what’s planned at the main branch downtown, said library Public Services Manager Amy Wander.
The library system also is buying more powerful computers for robust digital projects and will offer workshops in video game design at some of its branches this summer, Wander said.
The video game workshops are a collaboration with the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, a school with campuses in Seattle and Lafayette that teaches classes in animation, video game development and related skills.
Wander said library staff members also are exploring free software available on line for video production, computer programming and other skills, with the goal of guiding patrons to the most useful tools.
Wander said the library system is seeking youthful volunteers to help out at the new makerspace.
“We know we have some techy teens in Lafayette,” she said.
The development of the makerspaces in Lafayette is part of a trend seen at public libraries nationwide, and three library systems in Louisiana already have developed new technology labs with 3-D printers — Livingston, Lafourche and Calcasieu parishes, according to state Library of Louisiana spokeswoman Paulita Chartier.
She said a fourth makerspace is being developed at the East Baton Rouge Parish library.
“This is the next service that we are going toward,” Wander said of the new technology.
She said the library plans to give patrons a chance to experiment with new technology in June and July at the South Regional Branch.
“The plan right now is that we are testing out these technologies,” Wander said. “ This summer, we just want to get some patron feedback.”