July 29, 2014

DC Public Library Opens Digital Commons, “Dream Lab”

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DC Public Library digital commonsThe DC Public Library (DCPL) yesterday hosted the grand opening of its new Digital Commons and “Dream Lab” collaborative workspace. The new areas are designed to enhance the library system’s digital literacy efforts, while building relationships with local tech entrepreneurs. The celebration featured a speech by Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray.

“Lots of people are going to learn how to use computers, lots of classes will be offered,” DCPL Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper told LJ. “We do that already in many of our locations, but this will allow us to take this to a whole other level. The second thing about this that’s really exciting is the partnerships that we’ve begun to develop with the tech community.”

Located on the first floor of the system’s main Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, the new 11,000 square foot space offers access to 70 computers—50 PCs, 16 iMacs, and 4 iMac creative stations outfitted with the latest version of Adobe Creative Suite (CS) and other software. It also featuresa 3D printer, an Espresso Book Machine, a Skype station, four meeting rooms, and a “Digital Bar” for test-driving tablet computers, ereaders, and other consumer electronics.

Within the Digital Commons area, the Dream Lab collaborative meeting space is also outfitted with SMART boards, a projector, and a DVD player. It will play a central role in the reciprocal relationships that DCPL is hoping to cultivate with local entrepreneurs.

For example, the library is already working with 1776, a new business incubation center near the White House. When an entrepreneur becomes a member of 1776, he or she is also signed up for a library card. DCPL staff will make visits to the 1776 facilities at least once per month to give presentations on specific library resources that could be useful for business research, and will invite 1776 members to use the Dream Lab’s collaborative space. In exchange, 1776 and its members will offer public programs at the library.

“We see our partnership with them giving them something important, and us something important, too,” Cooper said.

Washington DC aims to generate 100,000 new jobs in the district over the next five years, and officials are expecting one fifth of those jobs to be technology based, noted George Williams, media relations manager for DCPL. By offering digital literacy courses, as well as more advanced computer training, the library will play an important role in preparing the District’s citizens for these types of jobs, he said.

The library has already scheduled several classes for the lab—some professionally oriented, others for fun. After the grand opening, for example, there was a class on “DIY 30-Second Films” using Vine. Patrons who visit on Thursday can learn to create their own iPhone ringtone using Garageband. A series of courses on Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop begins on Friday. Attendees of those courses might be interested in participating in a contest to design the official logo for the Dream Lab, which runs through August 17.

Ultimately, the Digital Commons area aims to serve both novices looking to learn and experts who need access to software such as Adobe CS6. Cooper added that the library will work to adapt to its users demands and needs as they evolve.

“It’s really going to be created by the people that use it. We’ll have an opportunity for people to say ‘here are the classes we need,’” while offering their own expertise to other patrons, she said.

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Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Associate Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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