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Thursday, November 27, 2014
Libraries
Merrick Library opens Walter Mintz digital media center
By Brian Racow, bracow@liherald.com
Donovan Berthoud/Herald
Guishard Bastin, 14, Mariel Plutno, 22, and Alyssa Borenstein, 22 recently took advantage of the three new iMac computers in the Merrick Library’s Walter Mintz Digital Media Center.

If you always wanted the ability to make objects appear out of thin air, you may want to head over to the Merrick Library.

The library has launched its new Walter Mintz Digital Media Center, a room boasting three new iMac computers and a 3-D printer, for public use. The printer, a MakerBot Replicator, allows users to print 3-D, physical objects made of polylactic acid, a type of biodegradable plastic, based on computer models.

Library Director Ellen Firer said that the iMacs will allow library patrons to use Apple software, such as GarageBand and iMovie, which is better suited for creative projects than PC software.

“Most libraries just have PC’s,” Firer said. “Macs give more availability of creativity.”

Housed in a converted former storage room on the library’s second floor, the center opened for business last month. An official grand opening ceremony remains to be scheduled, according to Firer.

The center is dedicated in memory of Walter Mintz, a long-serving president of the Merrick Library Board of Trustees, who died last year. Mintz’s family asked that donations be given to the library. The center’s funding came from a combination of donations and a state construction grant, according to Firer.

“We wanted to create a space that is not just your typical quiet study area, but somewhere where people can collaborate and work on projects together,” said Marisa Crowley, a reference librarian who chose the equipment and software for the center.

Anyone with an ID can use it, whether or not they have a library card. The center’s hours are the same as the library’s, except the 3-D printer ceases use two hours before closing due to the lengthy nature of its printing projects.

Patrons can create 3-D printing projects using software like Blender or SketchUp, or they can avail themselves of preexisting models on the website thingiverse.com. They must then save projects to a SD card to transfer them to the 3-D printer. The library has an SD card that patrons can borrow at the media desk, also located on the second floor.

Firer said that library staff members have been trained to use the new technology in the center, and that the library plans to run classes on some of the iMacs’ software programs in the future.

Jesse Hunt, a Freeport man who was using one of the center’s iMacs on a Sunday afternoon to play online chess against an opponent in Moldova, called the room a “great use of space.”

“They really designed it well,” Hunt said. “The [computer’s] screen, picture quality and user experience are great.”

He said he thought the 3-D printer might be “good for artists,” but he was uninterested in using it.

“I use the computer for the Internet, mostly email, stocks and bonds, and chess,” Hunt said.

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