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Your Digital Projects Lab Has Arrived

It’s your next set of Library technology tools.

While Arlington Public Library has offered public computing since 1995, the experience has been kept to the all-important basics–Internet, word processing, printing–plus a host of tech classes for getting started.

This April we’ve rolled out the region’s first Digital Projects Lab, for those who have the needs and skills–but not the creative resources–to take the next step.

What can you create in the Lab?

Whether it’s a photo-video-and-sound wedding album, a small business graphic design campaign, plant growth animation for a science fair or a civic association enewsletter/podcast, you’ll be able to realize your vision with the kinds of software and hardware Library users have sought for years.

Simply put: If you have a story that can go beyond text, the Lab will help you tell it.

Why the Library?

PhotoShop and Flash may be household words but they’re rarely found in homes when cost and frequency of use get factored in. Add the need for a scanner, quality microphone or maybe a “green screen” for video backgrounds and it’s clear why so many great DIY media projects are never made.

Arlington Public Library has been at the forefront of meeting public needs with contemporary technologies, whether it’s through online language courses, downloadable books, premium web sites like Consumer Reports–or even the Washington area’s first library VCR back in 1971.

The Digital Projects Lab continues that mission of shared public resources building new connections to knowledge. We’re a lot more than the local copy shop.

How do you use the Lab?

The Lab launches in April as a temporary “pop-up shop”  on the first floor of Central Library. This pilot phase, through June, will allow staff to see what systems are most in demand and what kinds of work stations are most effective. The Lab will be open 20 hours per week and sessions will be 2 hours in length, although that time could be extended if no one is waiting.

The majority of Lab equipment and software was already owned by the Library for technical support and now will serve a second role during public hours.

Because the Lab is aimed at the intermediate and advanced user, you’ll need to be fluent in the technology. Users will know the tools from work, school, community courses or self-study, but the Library will also be evaluating possible on-site classes.

Staff will be on hand for basic assistance during Lab sessions and there also will be a small collection of guidebooks for reference.

The Library will host an open focus group on May 9 at 7 p.m. so potential users and others can weigh in on future direction of the Lab. All are enthusiastically invited. RSVPs requested.

Advanced reservations will be required for use of the Digital Projects Lab. The Library will begin accepting reservations online, at service desks and by phone beginning in early April so be sure to watch the Library website, Twitter and Facebook feeds for updates.

What kinds of things will be in the Lab in April?

Software:

Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, In Design, Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks; Final Cut Pro, Audacity, iMovie.

Hardware:

Mac Book, large monitor, webcam, microphone, video camera, tripod, large color printer, film/negative/photo scanner, memory card reader, Wacom Intuos 3 mouse/digitizer/sylus.

How do I learn more about the Lab?

Watch the Library website, Twitter and Facebook feeds and plan on joining us May 9 for a tour if you’re not ready for a project session. Feel free to ask questions through the comments section of this post.

Comments (17)

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  1. Gail Kouril says:

    APL is awesome. Thanks for being on the front line with helping Arlington citizens get up to speed on technology.

  2. Gretchen Robertson says:

    Will the equipment be able to read both MAC and Microsoft-created files? Great idea for those of us with occasional needs!

  3. Gen says:

    Will the lab eventually have technology to convert old video recorder film into DVD. That’s a project I’ve been want to do for a while.

    • The Librarians says:

      Great question, Gen. While that won’t be part of the initial Project Lab setup, it is one of the many things we’re looking into for the future.

  4. [...] Multimedia Tools Available at Library ‘Lab’ — Next month Arlington Central Library will be launching a temporary “lab” on the first floor that will provide do-it-yourself multimedia creation tools. The Digital Projects Lab, as it will be called, will be open 20 hours per week and will have digital tools like Photoshop, Flash, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Final Cut Pro, Audacity and iMovie. The lab will be powered by MacBook computers and will also have a video camera, microphone, large color printer, film/photo scanner and Wacom Intuos 3 tablet. [Arlington Public Library] [...]

  5. Archan says:

    Very nice! I am looking forward to it. Hopefully we’ll be able to read the DV (digital video) format and perhaps others.

  6. Jo Ann says:

    I too am very excited about the new facility. Among the hardware listed is a large color printer. Would you know the printer make and model and what are the largest sized prints that can be made on the printer? Many thanks.

  7. Kit says:

    I find this to be a wonderful idea. I want to know where and how one can learn about using the software of these tools. Does the library teach some of the basics of Adobe, Dreamweaver and Audacity? I know what these programs can do, but do not own them and would like to learn more.

    • The Librarians says:

      Kit, we will keep a collection of manuals for all of the programs and equipment in the Lab itself. There will also be online tutorials bookmarked on the computer.

      Want to take a class?

      Arlington Public Schools’ Adult Education offers Photoshop, Dreamweaver, HTML and CSS, and more.

      Arlington Independent Media (in Clarendon) teaches classes on basic video editing, Final Cut Pro, WordPress and Photoshop, as well as many video production and marketing classes.

  8. John says:

    Would it be possible to add other software titles in the future? Autodesk’s AutoCAD LT 2013 is the standard technical drawing application for most designers and design students, yet it is cost-prohibitive for many. It integrates well with other programs like Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Acrobat Pro. I’d also highly recommend Autodesk Sketchbook Pro which would really put the Wacom Pen tablet through its paces.

    • The Librarians says:

      These are great software suggestions – thanks.

      While we’re probably not going to be able to implement them during the pilot phase of the Digital Project Lab, your feedback is essential as we develop the Lab to best serve our community.

      Please consider attending our Open House / Focus Group on May 9, and sharing more of your questions, ideas and thoughts.

  9. Roland T Harris says:

    I would like to learn how upload my digital photos to Clark Color Labs. Also, I would like to learn how to convert 35mm slides to digital so that I can upload to Clark Color Labs for digital processing. If you do not provide this service, do you know someone who could train me? Willing to pay. Thanks, Roland

    • The Librarians says:

      Roland,

      Our Digital Lab would be the perfect place for this type of project, but it is currently closed for construction.

      In the meantime, you could take your slides to many of our local drugstores, or Target, to convert your slide to digital format.

      Then you could make an appointment for one-on-one tech tutoring at our Columbia Pike Branch Library, to learn how to upload the digital files – the next one takes place on August 19.

  10. Diane says:

    I was wondering if Arlington Library had ever looked into a kiosk subscription for Lynda.com It seems like it would go along with the ideals of the Digital Projects Lab. It would allow users to quickly look up questions or take in depth classes online in hundreds of different topics and software. I was looking at getting a personal subscription and decided I should check to see if you have it first. Here is more information on it: http://www.lynda.com/online-software-training/lyndakiosk-education.html
    I’d be interested to know if it is a possibility for the some what near future.
    Thank you!

    • The Librarians says:

      Diane,

      It’s on our radar (we have used it for staff training, and recommend it to our patrons) and are evaluating it for the DPL!

      The DPL is currently closed for renovation, but will reopen with new equipment and software later this Fall.

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