Flenninken Library offers a lot more than books

April 19, 2014
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Tara Kinsell/ Observer-Reporter
Flenniken Library offers 3D printing capabilities. Order a Print
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Tara Kinsell/ Observer-Reporter
Isabella Wise, 4, of Mather, is a regular visitor to Flenniken Library. Her mother, Heather Wise, is a teacher in Jefferson-Morgan School District. Order a Print

CARMICHAELS – Walk inside Flenniken Public Library in Carmichaels and one is bound to find more than books. A visitor can be entertained, learn a new skill, or even take an idea from a sketch and make a simple prototype. The best part is almost everything there is free and some of it can be done from the comfort of your own home.

So, if your idea of a public library is a place to be quiet and studious, you might want to take another look at the new face of public libraries.

“If you have an interest in designing apps, such as Flappy Bird, we now have software that will let someone write an app using Java,” said Flenniken head librarian Jessica Miller. “We recently purchased Flip (video) cameras that record in high definition and will let someone create their own movie. They are very simple to use – you push a button to turn it on and off.” These cameras are available to be checked out with a library card just like checking out a book.

Miller recently offered a workshop at the library for those who wanted to edit videos, add subtitles, include a title page, and even create a credit page. The finished product could then be burned to a DVD, stored on a jump drive, or even uploaded directly to a Facebook or YouTube account from the library’s computers.

“Something else we recently acquired is a printer bot for 3D printing,” Miller said, noting she knew of these printers being used in a few libraries across the state but not in Washington, Greene, or Fayette counties.

The 3D printer is connected to a dedicated computer running software to control its functions within the library. A separate computer with design software interacts wirelessly with the 3D printer’s control computer. Patrons can sit at the design computer, create an image and then send that image to the computer that controls the 3D printer. A plastic filament is then fed into the printer, as paper would be fed into an ink printer, and the design comes out as a 4-inch-by-4-inch model. The completed design project is then weighed and patrons pay a copy fee of 20 cents per gram. A cat, designed by Miller as a sample project, weighed in at a cost of 40 cents.

“If you have the design skills this is an option to see what something will look like completed (in miniature),” said Miller.

Miller said she doesn’t think the public realizes everything Flenniken has to offer, including opportunities to choose from a large selection of classes online that can be taken without cost simply by possessing a library card.

“We have some crazy databases. You can learn a language, how to play guitar, do genealogy research on Heritage Quest and study for the SAT, ACT and GED exams,” Miller said.

There are options to learn about novel writing and publishing, grant writing, veterinary science, and how to conduct a job search.

“The classes start mid-month and you can take as many as you want. You just need a library card. There are 24 sessions and then a quiz. If you complete it and pass they send you a certificate,” Miller said. “They are self-paced and you can access all of them at home with a library card.”

Miller said she hopes the public will begin to look into everything Flenniken has available to them on the eastern end of the county. In recognition of National Library week, the library has offered a gardening class, a scavenger hunt, and a Mother Goose Olympics for children ages 2 through 8.

That age group has consistently patronized the library with their family members, Miller said. The weekly story time program averages 15 youngsters each week.

“My daughter Isabella loves it. My mom watches her and she has to plan her week around that,” said Heather Wise of Mather. A teacher in Jefferson-Morgan School District, Wise said she still had to take Isabella to the story time when all five county districts were out for a snow day.

“She gets upset if she can’t go. The teacher reads to the class, they have a lesson of the day and a snack,” Wise said. “She has her own library card and she is 4 years old. She’s had it for about two years now. She gets her own books, checks them out herself and returns them herself.”

Wise was surprised to hear of the online classes and other offerings available to patrons and said she may be joining Isabella in spending more time checking things out at the library.

Tara Kinsell started her career in journalism with the National Geographic Insider Magazine and the Gaithersburg Gazette Newspaper in Montgomery County, Md. Tara has written and photographed sports, features and news stories for the Herald Standard, Greene County Messenger and Albert Gallatin Weekly. She holds degrees in journalism and graphic design from Waynesburg College, now Waynesburg University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, respectively.

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