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Toronto Public Library to open 2 digital hubs

When the Fort York library opens early next year, it will have the usual books and magazines – but it will also have a digital hub, complete with a 3D printer and spaces for game design.

It’s part of an initiative by the Toronto Public Library (TPL) to “bridge the digital divide,” TPL manager Paul Trumphour explained.

“We’re doing this in the spirit of wanting people to learn,” he told CityNews.

“We’re going to be offering a wide range of workshops, not just training but also information – what does 3D printing mean for our world now.”

The second digital hub will open at the Toronto Reference Library at Yonge and Bloor streets in the fall. Each of the hubs will cost $50,000, the library said.

“It’s a way of providing exposure to new technology, where people may have heard about something but haven’t had the opportunity to use or try them,” said Maggie Gosselin, another TPL manager.

The two managers explained that the labs will have the latest computers, electronics and open source software so that library patrons can create a wide variety of digital media. Users will be able to experiment with 3D design and printing, web and graphic design, computer coding and game design.

Access to the space and the use of equipment will be free, but there will be printing charges – much like photocopying is now.

Similar hubs have been created in Ontario, including in Innisfil, and across North America. TPL is asking Toronto residents and library users what they would like to see in their own space. The survey is available online.

“We’ve had hundreds of responses,” Trumphour said.

“People are really looking forward to this. We’re available to everybody. Anybody can come in and use this – we’re a free service. We’re known for digital literacy education and teaching people how to use the web and we’ve been doing it for a long time,” he added.

The program was inspired by the ‘maker’s space’ culture and community and the desire to create a common public space where people can come together to collaborate.

“It’s for all ages. We can make equipment available to children. They’re using equipment they may not have used before, and for older adults, there’s a lot of interest in new technology,” Gosselin said.

Users of all levels are welcome. For example, the space will have a VHS converter, so people can bring in their own films and the library can digitize them.  The library will also be encouraging the community – including programmers and entrepreneurs – to use these spaces and learn from each other.

“There’s a lot of peer-to-peer learning and mentoring and we want to foster that,” Trumphour said.

“The expertise is among the people who are using the spaces, as well with our staff. It’s a collaborative idea,” he said.

The library also plans to reach out to young women and girls.

“It’s an important skill and they may not have been encouraged to enter the field,” Trumphour said.

What would you like to see in a digital hub? Let us know in the comments.