During the past week, the Grand Island Public Library has been celebrating National Library Week.
Throughout the week, the library has honored its patrons, volunteers and staff; forgiven fines for food; hosted a book sale; and, on Saturday, gave tours of the library’s innovative makerspace.
Library Director Celine Swan said National Library Week celebrates libraries as a foundation and pillar of communities across the world.
“They have been around forever and they just don’t seem to go away,” Swan said. “They are for people during good times, bad times and pandemics. They survive and we are here to give people the information that they need.”
Rising to the challenge
Public libraries have faced many challenges over the years, from the rise of technology and the internet to the ongoing pandemic.
Swan said during troubled times, the library can bring people comfort. While people were isolated in their homes during the height of the pandemic, the library found innovative ways to bring books to people through offering curbside pickup and highlighting its audio- and e-book collection.
“Libraries are resilient,” Swan said. “People know we are doing the best we can.”
Swan said the library has developed a kindred relationship with its patrons. She said the staff knows many of the patrons by first name. It is not uncommon for patrons to bring cookies or some other gift to show their appreciation to staff and the library’s many volunteers.
After many long months, with more and more people receiving vaccinations, people are returning to the library. In March, Swan said, the numbers jumped by more than 1,200 visitors from the previous month.
“They didn’t forget us,” she said.
While the library met the challenges posed by the pandemic, Swan said it has also adapting to an ever-increasing technological society where new innovations appear almost on a daily basis, changing the way we live and perceive the world.
The GIPL website offers a wide array virtual services and programs, including Overdrive, Hoopla, Mango, Tutor.com, Tumblebooks, Ebsco, Data Axle, Newsbank, Chilton’s Auto, Hall County Digital Community Newspaper Archive, and more.
Whether people visit virtually or in person, Swan said libraries are accessible and inclusive places that foster a sense of belonging and community through learning, discovery and exploration.
GIPL — and libraries across the country — provides electronic learning resources like online homework help and Wi-Fi access for students and workers who may lack Internet access at home. Swan said the library is supporting the community with virtual services such as online programming for all ages; GIPL has hosted more than 121 virtual programs in the last nine months, including Beanstack reading challenges with Snow Much to Read and Bookopoly, and much more.
Hands-on technological advancements
GIPL has also embraced the advance of technology with its innovative makerspace and the hands-on application of new technology, such as 3D and laser printers.
On Saturday, there was an open house for the public to see the many technological innovations that they can access through the library.
“The makerspace is a place where people can come and create for themselves or collaborate with someone else, or come to the library to learn something new or learn to use a new piece of equipment,” Swan said. “We have a lot of really cool equipment.”
The makerspace has been growing steadily for the last five years.
Makerspace is a worldwide movement of creating collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high-tech to no-tech tools. They provide hands-on learning, help with critical-thinking skills and boost self-confidence. They are dedicated to democratic ideals that prize accessibility and egalitarianism. It is very much within the tradition of a library’s mission of sharing knowledge amongst all people.
Swan said GIPL was building up its makerspace lab — and then the pandemic hit and limited public access. She said one of the reasons for the open house Saturday was to get the public reacquainted with the space, especially small businesses re-establishing themselves.
The lab itself is home to a 3D printer that uses computer-aided design to create three-dimensional objects by layering materials, like plastics, composites or bio-materials to create objects that range in shape, size, rigidity and color.
The library has access to open-source 3D printing software programs, which can provide plans for anything from a common household object to parts or accessories to equipment, such a motorcycle. The use of the technology is free, but there is a cost for the materials.
Another popular piece of technology at the Makerspace is its Cricut Maker, an electronic cutting machine that lets users upload and cut files on more than 100 different materials. Users can also draw, score, and write with it.
A laser cutter to engrave objects, a sublimation printer to transfer designs into a material or fabric using ink and heat, a laminator, buttonmaker and sewing machine round out some of the makerspace offerings.
“What is very cool about our library is that we are very diverse, and we have become a community center,” Swan said.
She said the library foundation and the City of Grand Island has been behind the continued growth of the makerspace. Swan said they are developing a strategic plan for the makerspace and the future, including surveys to let the library know how they can improve on the provided services.
“Part of our mission is to get people in to use the technology that we have available,” she said.
To learn more about the makerspace, visit www.gilibrary.org/resources/makerspace