Two new projects take PLSJ into the future

CREATION — Eli Kvocka, reference assistant for the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County, demonstrated the use of a rotary tool attachment that allows for tumblers to be engraved by the new laser engraver at the Schiappa Branch library. -- Christopher Dacanay

STEUBENVILLE — Months of hard work paid off for the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County Saturday with the opening of two new projects that will take the library system into the future.

Now operational at PLSJ’s Schiappa Branch are a community makerspace, filled with gadgets for accomplishing craft and personal projects, and a library of things, which offers unique and useful items that patrons can check out like a book.

Sarita Asawa, public outreach coordinator for PLSJ, said the library system had seen other libraries implementing one of the two projects, which inspired PLSJ to take them on. She added that doing both at once was a major undertaking, but now the library’s team is excited to unveil the final products after many “late nights and probably more than one paper cut.”

“What an enormous team effort it’s been for the entire system. Some really dedicated and creative people put a lot of hard work into (these projects). I’m super proud to work for PLSJ today.”

The library system was aided with grant funds, Asawa noted, namely a total of $22,500 in funding from the Esther Simmons Charitable Trust and John C. Williams Charitable Trust to help offset costs.

NOW OPEN — Individuals with the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County and the Friends of PLSJ participated in a ribbon cutting Saturday during the opening of the Schiappa Branch’s community makerspace and library of things. -- Christopher Dacanay

Saturday saw the Schiappa Branch bustling with activity as staff demonstrated how to use the makerspace’s six different types of tech, following an initial ribbon cutting.

Situated in the makerspace, which is located in an enclosed space by the library’s front entrance, are a laser engraver, two 3-D printers, a digital conversion station, a Cricut machine, a poster printer and a button maker.

Dani Hicks, library services assistant, said the library recommends patrons make a reservation by calling Schiappa at (740) 264-6166. Walk-ins are welcome when there are no prior reservations, Hicks said, adding that reservations are for three hours, but more time can be requested if no one else is waiting.

The machines are free to use, apart from the 3-D printers and poster printer, with costs going toward paying for materials, Hicks said. For all other machines, patrons can bring their own materials.

There will be trained staff on hand to help, if needed, Hicks said. The makerspace will be open Mondays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The makerspace is closed on Sundays.

The digital conversion station allows users to turn VHS tapes and floppy disks into digital formats, which are transferred to a USB drive. A Scansnap machine allows users to scan photos and books. The library hopes to offer cassette conversions as well, said O.J. Meeks, PLSJ technology coordinator and leader of the makerspace project.

Two 3-D printers are on hand, with the first offering two-color printing with duplicate or mirror printing options. The second printer is “by far the fastest printer I’ve ever seen,” Meeks said, offering speedy printing in up to four colors.

The laser engraver can engrave onto wood or metal, with a specialized lens for high-definition photos, and it can cut through card stock or acrylic. Reference assistant Eli Kvocka demonstrated the use of a rotary tool attachment that allows for tumblers to be engraved.

Borderless printing is a unique feature of the poster printer, which can print on 24-inch-long and infinite-inch-high paper, depending on the roll length, Meeks said. There is also specialized ink to enhance certain colors.

The Cricut, a digital die-cutting machine, cuts paper or vinyl to make a custom design, such as the PLSJ logo on the ribbon for the ribbon cutting. Sam Nicosia, social media specialist, told how the Cricut even cut out the “makerspace” and “library of things” design that was heat-pressed onto T-shirts worn by PLSJ staff during the opening.

Alicia Nutter, teen services coordinator, demonstrated how two small but heavy-duty machines can be used to take a paper design — either one of PLSJ’s designs or one that the user created — and stamp it onto buttons. For patrons, five buttons cost $1.

The makerspace’s services will be a game-changer for small businesses, Asawa said, adding that there’s a “side hustle waiting to happen.”

With the library of things, patrons can check out up to three items at a time on an adult library card for one week. Items are meant to be either unusual, something that a person would only ever use once or something that the patron can try out before purchasing one for himself or herself.

The library of things is available during all business hours. If a certain item is checked out, patrons can join a waiting list for it. Hicks said Schiappa has the most robust collection, but other PLSJ branches have their own selection of items in stock for checkout.

Items include an Artie 3000 coding robot, a Blu-Ray player, a vehicle code reader, a HALO portable charger, a ROKU streaming stick, a Toniebox audio player and a ukulele, as well as kits for birdwatching, disc golf, driving cones, dungeons and dragons, ghost hunting, knitting and crocheting and retro gaming.

Also included on the wall are free museum passes, which can be checked out and redeemed at Heinz History Center, Historic Fort Steuben, Fort Ligonier, the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, Depreciation Lands Museum. Braddock’s battlefield and — the latest addition — OH WOW! the Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology.

For stopping at each station, visitors received tickets that could be entered for a drawing to win prizes donated by the Friends of PLSJ.


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