New technologies abound at Sparta Library

3-D printing, others now offered

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By Megan LaTorre
— It is hard to believe that the Sparta Public Library was founded in 1841.

In the schemes of world history, that is a blink of an eye. Yet, innumerable changes have occurred over that time. In 1841 the library provided fourteen periodicals for its seventeen members, charged a fine of two cents per day, and had a budget of $36.50.

Even from fifteen years ago, the library’s services have evolved significantly. Before the age of computers was the elusive age of the typewriter. Librarians had to catalog on cards in order to find books and did everything manually.

For example, checking out books consisted of stamping a card stashed in a built in pocket of the book and then filing that card. This consumed hours of the librarian’s time, time that could have been spent promoting another service besides the traditional lending books.

The 1980's was a shift from a manual system to an automated system. The 1990's was the grand shift to the internet and online sources.

Today, the shift has been to the digital realm. Unlike the previous shifts, the digital realm encourages growth and a betterment of products that we already have. The latter might be infuriating for those who have to constantly learn new ways to do the same thing, however, these improvements may surprise you.

We all know the general parameters of a printer — a computer is linked to the printer with a printer cable cord and the printer expenses paper based on the commands given it. The same goes for the new advance of printing from your laptop. But what if the printer was told to print something in three dimensions?

Started in November of last year, the Sparta Public Library now offers the use of MakerBot’s 3D printer.

In order to use this fanciful machine, Sparta residents need to take a course, which is free to Sparta residents, to learn how to use it. After that, the printer is available for use. Residents will then need to block off time to use the printer and pay a $1 per hour fee for materials.

But what exactly does a 3D printer expel from its blinking depths?

The 3D printer is linked to Thingiverse, a design community for creating, discovering, and sharing 3D printable designs and ideas. If the user does not desire to create their own design to print, they can select one from a collection of designs on Thingiverse website, resize the design to their desired dimensions, and print.

I had an exclusive showing of the mystical powers, I mean, scientific properties of the 3D printer as I spoke with David Costa, IT Supervisor, and Carol Boutilier, the director of the library. Appealing to my inner dork, they printed a miniature model of the Tardis, from the famous television series, Doctor Who.

“We like change,” Boutilier said. “Sometimes we are the first to do something. If not, we go to other libraries to see how it works.”

Other technically inclined tools that the library fosters are the Cricket, which creates fabric letters and designs that stick on windows, the Ellison Letter Machine, which cuts paper into a chosen shape – great not just for crafts, but also for festive decorating, the CD/DVD/video game cleaner, and “The Machine 150” or the Button Maker.

Some of the archetypal technological tools that the library also has are the scanner, fax machine, projectors, computers to search for items in the library, the Rosetta Stone, both Apple and PC computers, iPads, and the Community Portal, which advertises happenings both in the library and in the community at large.

The Sparta Public Library also has a significant presence on the web. Every month, the library gets approximately 14,000 hits between the website, Facebook, and other social media sources.

Furthermore, between the new 3M and OverDrive apps, Sparta residents do not need to even leave their house, now empowered to loan items virtually.

OverDrive and 3M are competitors, therefore they each offer different features and supply different publishing companies, which alters the selections from which to choose from. There are 300 other libraries in the area that use OverDrive, while 3M is compatible with nearly any device inlcuding Apple, Android, Nook, Kind, and PC products.

All of these tools are to enable Sparta residents in this constantly evolving world to fend for themselves, I mean, expand their heightened knowledge. Besides, who would not like the ability to print a three-dimensional version of the Tardis on command?

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