Give it a try: Monroeville Public Library’s maker lab offers high-tech resources |

2022-05-21 23:54:02 By : Ms. Mandy Lee

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That’s a major consideration with regard to the maker lab at Monroeville Public Library, where a variety of state-of-the-art software and equipment is available for use.

“What we’re focusing on is providing resources that people don’t necessarily have on their own but want to try out,” Alan Rader, the library’s assistant director of technology and facilities, said.

An example involves three-dimensional printing, with the lab supplying everything from design programs such as Tinkercad, Sketchup and Sculptris to a MakerBot Replicator that builds the finished products.

Other lab features include a Silhouette Cameo electronic cutting machine for cardstock and fabric, and Glowforge laser cutter and engraver for wood, acrylic and glass.

A recent addition in the way of equipment allows for programming designs to be stitched onto fabric automatically.

“Put it on an apron, a hat, whatever you want,” Rader said. “It’s a relatively new technology, and frankly, it’s expensive technology. Not everybody is going to spend the money on this machine to have one at home.”

He teaches patrons how to us what the lab offers, with classes anticipated to start again June 3 after their pandemic-related hiatus.

“I’m hoping to bridge the gap between people who are not maybe so tech-savvy,” he said.

The lab primarily focuses on patrons who are interested in developing their skills in crafting.

“A lot of other maker labs, which are wonderful, have great facilities for children,” Rader said. “We’re not saying no to children, but we’re focusing more on things that appeal to adults.”

Youngsters certainly aren’t excluded from technological — and by extension, educational — considerations. Prior to the pandemic, Rader complemented storytimes by presenting a “robot petting zoo.”

“We have a bunch of small robots that are meant for kids to play with,” he said. “They have kind of a secret agenda of learning coding behind it, but it’s more for kids to just play.”

Beyond technology, the library has numerous potential try-prior-to-purchase offerings.

“We have a canning kit that was part of a regional grant,” Rader said. “You can check out the pot, the pan, all the tools, the books and everything for canning.”

Along those lines are the likes of distinctive cookie cutters and cake pans, and even samples of spices that “frankly, you aren’t going to find everywhere,” he said. “Somebody who doesn’t want to buy three pounds of it can certainly come in and get a couple of tablespoons, and give it a shot. It’s a nice way to have patrons experience different things.”

More items available for use, sometimes through strong cooperative relationships with other libraries in the area, include sewing machines, knitting needles, crochet hooks, needles, pins, shears, tailor’s chalk, steam irons and tape measures.

“Especially since the pandemic,” Rader said, “there’s been a lot more interest in those kinds of homebody skills.”

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Harry Funk is a Tribune-Review news editor. You can contact Harry at

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