For over a year, the 3D printers, video cameras, green screen and other equipment inside the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library’s Digital Den have sat idle due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But this week, the creative workspace that first opened in 2019 at the downtown branch fired back up and into overdrive with a new and improved space offering more free services than before.
That includes a new recording studio that can be used for podcasts, professional Zoom meetings or other video projects that was installed as part of a $25,000 renovation at the downtown branch.
Ben Rutz, the library’s new digital media coordinator who oversees the den, said that means there is no better time than now for patrons to explore all they have to offer.
The den officially reopened on Monday with expanded walk-in hours for anyone to use the equipment.
Patrons can see the space in action during a grand reopening event from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. April 15. Live demonstrations will be held all day showing off the green screens, printers and other technology there.
“A lot of people didn’t really know all we had here, so the grand opening is about making people aware that we have all this cool stuff here, and it’s free, so come and use it,” Rutz said.
That stuff includes the 3D printers patrons can use to create virtually anything they can imagine. Rutz has recently been using the equipment to print off miniature Zen gardens for an upcoming library program, as well as one-handed book holders and miniature figurines.
“It’s an incredibly useful tool, and it’s my personal belief that it’s the furthest we’ve come in modern technology,” Rutz said. “The possibilities for what you can do are virtually endless.”
The machines are available to any patron, and cost $1 per printing hour up to 5 hours.
The den has also purchased a Cricut Maker machine that can print off logos or other designs that can be placed on t-shirts, magnets or buttons. The machine is free to use and can be checked to take home, but patrons must purchase the printing materials.
A computer in the den is equipped with the entire Adobe Creative Suite software that can be used to edit videos, photos, recordings or nearly any other digital content. Paired with the green screen, patrons can be the star of their own show and edit it with the software.
Rutz said if anyone has ever had interest in getting into photography, videos, podcasts or other digital content, the den is a good place to test the waters and learn the ropes.
“This is a great place for people to get started on projects that they don’t really know where to begin,” he said. “If they have an idea for a video or want to learn more about photography, and they don’t want to spend a lot of money on a hobby they don’t know much about, they can come in here and utilize this stuff.”
The space also has video game consoles, virtual-reality equipment, board games and programmable robots. There’s also a machine that can convert VHS tapes to DVDs.
Rutz said the Digital Den was first installed at the library mainly as an area for kids to use as part of a program called Digital Divers. That program is now back up and running from 4 to 5 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday.
But with the renovated space and new walk-in hours, Rutz said he hopes to entice more patrons than ever before to start taking advantage of the den.
“My goal is to have a revolving door of people coming in every day making an awesome, creative project,” he said.
And it doesn’t stop there. Rutz said he plans to begin offering classes on how to record and create podcasts, and hopes to start some kind of e-sports program using the library’s video-game consoles.
For now, though, it’s exciting to see the space back open, he said, with more services than ever after sitting unused for over a year.
“It’s bigger and better than it’s ever been, and we’re now open for people to come in to be able to utilize our stuff whenever they want,” Rutz said.