Erie County Public Library Opens Idea Lab to Public
New collaborative space offers community members education, opportunity, and advancement
SATURDAY, OCT. 28
A Pew Research Study done in the fall of 2016 revealed that, within that past year, millennials were more likely to have visited a public library than any other adult age group. With that said, there is a large push in Erie when it comes to educational programs aimed toward all age groups. With the role of libraries evolving, The Erie County Public Library realizes this necessity when it comes to educational opportunities, and on October 28, The Blasco Library will host the grand opening of their brand new Idea Lab.
Erin Wincek, Library Director explained that "the Blasco Master Plan took a hard look at our main location's strengths and weaknesses in a series of forums, surveys, and conversations." She continued that "the result called for a bold, human-centered redesign, including more spaces for community connections to develop. The plan also recommends the addition of interactive spaces for all ages with hands-on learning opportunities, outdoor spaces which give everyone in our community access to the waterfront, and most notably, it included the addition of the Idea Lab."
Wincek moved to Erie in 2015 to become the Blasco Library Coordinator, where she now oversees the facility — the main branch of the county's six sites. In her time as coordinator, Wincek has hired the first Teen Services Librarian, reduced barriers when it comes to gaining access to borrowing films and newly released books, and has worked with her team to create a five-year strategic plan to help map out the future of these programs. Her predecessor, Mary Rennie, was very active in her role, continuously working toward improvements and new ideas to increase the educational potential and reach within the community. Wincek noted that Rennie was always looking for ways to enhance lives while strengthening the community. She would refer to the spaces that were dedicated to enrichment and educational opportunities as "idea labs," and the name stuck.
The Idea Lab focuses on creating an environment that invites learning, new ideas, and inspiration. It also focuses on the development of small businesses and workforce cooperation with local agencies in the community. Wincek said that if you have never attended college, or you feel as though you have a lack of social connections within the community, the path to your career or to your field of interest can be hard to maneuver. "While Erie has tremendous resources focused on entrepreneurs and workforce development," reasoned Wincek, "we've seen that our patrons feel overwhelmed by the options. Again and again they come to the library seeking direction, and it's our goal to connect them to the right resources and support them at whatever point they're at on their journey."
With the intention of generating a collaborative and creative environment, the Idea Lab is open to everyone in the community, and will include a makerspace, digital media studio, community classroom, workspace, and resources for small business development. The use of equipment in the makerspace and digital media lab will be available at no cost, but there will be some fees for the use of materials.
"The Idea Lab will give visitors access to shared equipment including 3D printers, 3D pens, a large format printer, sewing machines, a vinyl cutter, and recording equipment," said Wincek. She also explained that, starting on November 1, the lab will begin offering classes, workshops, technology training, and job-seeking training by partners in the community and on staff. The programs "will include Intro to 3D Printing, Fiber Meetups, Maker Monday, Bike Repair, GED Prep, computer classes, and more." — Maddie Hepler
Grand opening 10 a.m. Saturday, Idea Lab will be open to the public Monday // Raymond M. Blasco, M. D. Memorial Library, 160 E Front Street // (814) 451-6900 // erielibrary.org/idealab