Thursday, August 1, 2013

Chicago Innovation Lab

I forgot to take a photo of the entrance of the Chicago Public Library's new maker lab, so you'll just have to do with the 3d printed octopus.

"Maker labs", or whatever you want to call them, are super hot in the library world right now. Everyone wants them and, perhaps more crucially, it's possible to get grant money for them. Thus the underfunded Chicago library system has just opened a new space filled with various 3d printers, laser cutters, and other cool things.

I'll ignore the fact that it seems weird to me to be funding this when so many of the CPL's other services seem to be lacking. But it's not like they could have used this money to hire more shelvers. However, the funding only lasts until December (I think), and we'll see if this place will exist after that.

At any rate I think 3d printers are pretty cool. I'd love to play around with them at some point myself. I didn't have enough time to really use this one as it was closing for the day pretty soon after I got there.

However, one problem I had with this place was that the people working there didn't seem to have been adequately trained in the use of the equipment. This isn't to say that they had no idea what they were doing, just that they could definitely have been using the stuff more effectively. They admitted to me that they were still being trained on how to use everything. I think there was even one piece of equipment they hadn't used at all when I came by (though admittedly they'd only been open about a week). This kind of baffles me, why put people in charge of expensive equipment when they can't use it that well?

I wish that I'd have gotten more opportunity to experience the lab (and actually print something!), or even see it again in a few months when the kinks have been worked out, but it was neat seeing the 3d printers in action anyway.

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