Idea Lab at Blasco Library is a space for engaging learning

Rebecca Dunphy, Staff writer

When most people think of a library, aisles of shelved books come to mind. However, a local branch of the Erie County Public Library is challenging this with recent expansions.

Only 3 miles off campus, the Raymond M. Blasco Memorial Library has undergone a number of changes in recent years as part of a four-phase, expected $2.7 million renovation.

The first phase of this project included a new circulation area, circulation desk, book sorting system and — perhaps most significantly — the implementation of the Idea Lab.

Opened on Oct. 28, 2017, this area is accessible to all Erie County Public Library cardholders. The space features the Makerspace, Media Lab, “collaboratories” and a community classroom, each of which provide a different experience for users.

Beginning with the Makerspace, this area provides state-of-the-art equipment including 3D printers and pens, a large format printer, sewing machines, vinyl cutter and jewelry-making equipment, to name a few.

The Media Lab, on the other hand, offers a studio-like environment, featuring audio and visual recording devices, photography lighting and green screen for those who want to create music, videos or podcasts in the space.

Use of these resources are free of charge, though some small fees may apply when printing or creating a tangible product.

Beyond equipment, the Idea Lab is also a spot to cultivate community and education. Library cardholders have the ability to sign out either Collaboratory 102 or 103, providing a private work area that seats five people comfortably.

Much larger is the community classroom, which features two dozen laptops and offers classes on a variety of subjects from new tech skills to job seeking.

Upcoming classes include “Photography for Beginners: Manual Settings” on Feb. 21, “LinkedIn: The Basics” on Feb. 27 and “Learn to 3D Print” on Feb. 28.

In recent news, the Idea Lab has also become home to the Innovation Erie Design Competition, a program centered on the creation of original product ideas that could be created in Erie.
The Innovation Erie Design Lab will be running on Feb. 23 and March 2 for participants to prepare their designs, due on March 22 at the latest.

The continuation of this 10-year project highlights the Blasco Library’s success in creating an accessible space that provides increased opportunity to community members.

This was also exemplified in the recent opening of a Teen Area, funded by the Erie Regional Library Foundation and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Opened on Feb. 9, this space features a performance stage, tables, booths and laptop bar overlooking the Bayfront.

Though strictly for teenagers 13-18, this area again showcases innovation at the Blasco Library as community members await phases three and four.