Photo: Kitchener’s newly renovated Central Library is a great place to display art, such as this piece called Flux.
Back in June our Girl Geek Dinner convened at Kitchener’s newly re-opened Central (formerly Main) Library, to check out the results of a four-year, $40-million renovation project. We were not disappointed. (Full recap here.)
The evening’s theme was “Library as…” which is also a key point of strategy for the library on a day-to-day basis. The evolution of technology and our changing community make it critical for our library, and libraries in general, to continue to grow and change to meet the needs of everyone from digitally native kids to the digitally curious elderly, to a cohort of new Canadians.
Library stereotypes of dusty card catalogues and fossilized librarians prowling the stacks just waiting to shush you have gone the way of the dinosaur. Our library and many others are now big, bright spaces that invite interaction. They showcase art, encourage makers and offer resources as likely to come in megabytes as microfiche. And of course they have their own apps.
So, let us look at a few of the fantastic library resources available that are not books, or at least not the way you’ve ever accessed them.
The much-expanded library is a fantastic space to showcase art installations, and one of the most striking is this gorgeous hanging piece, Flux, in the atrium (that’s the header image for this piece).
Imagine the pages of books flung into the air, snippets of words and phrases, even images, fluttering and turning and playing with the light.
The Bechtel Mural, which has been on the wall for some time, has received a facelift… well, kind of. Everyone seems to think it was repainted to freshen it up, when in fact it was just the wall around it that was painted darker. It’s a gorgeous accent to the big, open space on the main floor along Queen Street.
In the children’s section, there’s a cool, interactive wall piece incorporating local culture, trivia, a growth chart and more. How many maple leaves or buttons tall are you?
Those are just a few of the unique pieces brightening up the new space.
If you were in a maker mood, you’d likely head to Kwartzlab, right? Not necessarily. Did you know that Central Library now features a (very busy) Makerbot 3D printer? Use an existing scanned image, create one with the on-site scanner – even scan yourself!
There’s also professional-grade Ableton Push hardware for composing and playing your own music. You can see your compositions and work on them using the light-up keypad.
Feeling crafty? There’s a Silhouette Cameo for all of your die-cutting needs. Scrapbooking? Customizing T-shirts? Making decals? The possibilities are endless, especially with the software to create your patterns for you.
Got a bunch of old VHS tapes gathering dust somewhere? Convert that old copy of Ghostbusters 2, Billy’s first birthday, or those ancient slides of your parents’ wedding to digital format, and edit them with Photoshop or Premiere.
And, of course, the library has plenty of plain ol’ computers, too, in several labs, with a wide variety of software, and workshops available to help you improve your skills.
It’s not all about the high-tech stuff. One of the most popular collections/sections in the library is one of Kristin – our co-host’s – favourites. It’s the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History.
There are plenty of things you’d expect, like old newspapers and maps, as well as oral history recordings and amazing resources like the solider information cards from the First and Second World Wars. There are photo archives from around the Region and beyond going back decades. (Start your research into the finest Movember moustache options early!)
You can get access to obituaries (very helpful for genealogical research). Or find heritage inventories for architecture if you’re wondering how old your house is, or if you’re looking for an old house or other building (that may well no longer be there).
This only scratches the surface of everything going on at Central Library these days. From composing to comics, 3D printing to PubLit, there’s something for everyone. Or just head down and curl up with a book in a comfy nook.
Melanie Baker has a Mennonite background, a career in tech, and enjoys the unlikely ways these things complement each other. She enjoys writing, working with geeks, building communities, baking and creating fanciful beasts out of socks.