Nebraska’s Library Innovation Studios: transforming rural communities makerspaces

By Dianne Girmus
The Nebraska Signal

An exciting project is now being featured at the Geneva Public Library and the staff encourages all residents of the county and beyond, to come in and experience technology and innovative learning tools that are not easily accessible locally.
The library was selected to host Nebraska’s Innovation Studio: Transforming Rural Communities makerspaces.  It was one of nine facilities chosen for the 20-week project and joins 18 other libraries chosen in 2017 when it originated.
The Nebraska Library Commission was awarded a $530,000 grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for this partnership project with the University of Nebraska Lincoln, Nebraska Innovation Studio, Nebraska Extension, Regional Library Systems and local public libraries.
The makerspaces project supports community engagement and participatory learning experiences with this equipment that is expected to stimulate creativity, innovation and the exchange of ideas to facilitate entrepreneurship, skills development and local economic development.
The Geneva Public Library, located at 1043 G Street, is hosting the Library Innovations Studios open house February 21, from 5 until 7 p.m., to showcase this amazing equipment in use, and invites everyone to attend.  Attendees will learn about the equipment, watch it in action and will be given the  opportunity to sign up for classes to become a certified user.  One to two-hour classes, beginning the week of February 25, will be held in the evenings and can also be set up to be one-on-one with an individual trainer, by appointment.  Anyone is eligible to sign-up, although children under 12 will need a parent or other adult to attend with them.
Classes will be kept small to allow for better training.  Everyone should be certified to use the equipment they signed up for, after one session. Instructors include staff of the Geneva, Exeter and Fairmont libraries, Fillmore County Extension staff, Fillmore Central teachers and community volunteers. Several  different types of equipment will be free to use.  The consumable products that will be needed, such as fabric, metal, wood, glass, etc. will be available for a small fee or people may bring their own.
Library director Sarah Johnson  said it’s a good project for the library.
“The library is a place for community to come together to learn new things, expand their horizons and interact with others,” Johnson said.  “This project will allow people to see ideas and solutions for businesses, organizations and home.”
Johnson added that the project has all kinds of possibilities.
“Individuals may decide to purchase equipment for a hobby or for one’s business,” she said.  “Or individuals or businesses may make a donation for equipment to be purchased and placed, strategically, in our community for public use.  Someone might even start up a new business.”
Equipment on display at the library, until June 15, includes a 3-D printer, Arduino starter kit, button maker, camera and green screen, CNC router, embroidery/sewing machine, heat press, laminator, laser cutter, LEGO Mindstorm EV3, Makey Makey, music technology, SparkFun inventor’s kit and a vinyl cutter.
Some very unique project possibilities include: engraving a glass mug with any logo using the laser cutter, making a personalized tote bag with a favorite photo, constructing a family name or slogan for your home or “Man Cave” using the vinyl cutter, making a birdhouse using the CNC router, constructing a pencil holder with the 3-D Printer Station and making specialty buttons or pocket mirrors with the button maker.
Two years ago the library started the application process, for this project, by obtaining support from the community.
“We applied to the Nebraska Library Commission proving we had space and people in the community who would be involved,” Johnson said.  “General support and letters of recommendation were written by the City of Geneva, Fillmore Central Schools, the Fillmore County Development Corporation and Fillmore County Extension.  We had to get people willing to support the project if it came to Geneva.”
Johnson said this is a good thing for our community and county.
“It gives people the opportunity to try new things,” she said.  “And it gives individuals and businesses a way to access new ideas.”

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