Entrepreneurs and crafters can explore their creativity through several technological innovations at Plattsmouth Public Library (PPL) for the next five months.

On loan through the Library Innovation Studios project, the library now has a CNC router, laser cutter, vinyl cutter, embroidery machine and heat press for people to create unique items to sell or give as gifts. Staff and volunteers demonstrated the use of each of the machines during an open house Nov. 18.

The use of the equipment is made possible through $530,732 grant under the direction of the Nebraska Library Commission, and in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Partners in the project include University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Nebraska Extension and Regional Library Systems.

“The project uses Library Innovation Studios (makerspaces) hosted by public libraries to support community engagement and participatory learning experiences by providing access to technological and innovative learning tools not readily accessible locally,” states the Library Innovation Studios website http://nlc.nebraska.gov/grants/Innovation Studios/.

“We foresee this as use for individuals or businesses,” said PPL Executive Director Karen Meir. “They can produce multiple items of their project to sell. It’s a way for entrepreneurs to make a little money and maybe start a business.”

The project has three official goals: Empowering rural residents with the tools and guidance to explore, collaborate, create, learn and invent; enable libraries to establish themselves as strong community catalysts for change by helping to transform their rural communities through these participatory learning spaces; and provide a replicable model to libraries and communities nationwide.

To receive the equipment, Meir had to apply for a grant. Libraries in towns with populations under 25,000 were eligible to apply. “We’ve been working on this since June and the grant was due in July to the grant committee at the library commission. We also got a community group together in June. The committee liked our grant, and it also helped that the initial group of libraries were relatively close to Lincoln, so if something broke down, they could send someone to fix it.”

Twenty libraries were initially awarded the grant, with PPL receiving the equipment first. “They will have another round of applications for libraries that didn’t apply during the first round,” Meir said.

The equipment arrived the week of Nov. 6. It is one of five sets of equipment purchased for the projects. “Five libraries can use the equipment at the same time. Then, the sets are sent to the next five libraries,” Meir said.

Starting Nov. 7, staff and community members began training on the equipment. “The trainers are people, who in turn, would train additional people.”

More training sessions are scheduled Nov. 20 and 21. “Learning how to use the machines is not that hard. Most sessions lasted an hour. We also had some additional safety training as a reminder about being safe when using the equipment,” Meir said.

Most of the machines use a computer program called CorelDraw Graphics. “The machines are designed to use vector images. They provide a way of looking at images so you can manipulate them in a better manner, so the pictures are crisp and clear. You can also resize them,” she said.

The machines provide a wide range of options for creating items. The 3D printer creates three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file.

The laser printer, linked to a computer, produces good-quality printed material by using a laser to form a pattern of electrostatically charged dots on a light-sensitive drum, which attract toner or dry ink powder. The toner is transferred to a piece of paper or glass and fixed by a heating process.

The CNC (Computer Numerical Control) router is a computer-controlled cutting machine related to the hand- held router used for cutting various hard materials, such as wood, composites, aluminum, steel, plastics and foams. CNC routers can perform the tasks of many carpentry shop machines such as the panel saw, the spindle moulder, and the boring machine.

The Graphics CE6000-60 Vinyl Cutter is a type of computer-controlled machine computer printer. The computer controls the movement of a sharp blade. This blade is used to cut out shapes and letters from sheets of thin self-adhesive plastic.

The Bernette Embroidery Machine allows people to create an embroidered image on material. Images can be stored or selected from a variety in the machine. The colors, size and patterns may be customized to create one-of-a-kind linen, cotton or other fabric napkins, aprons, shirts and other items.

The EnduraPress Heat is a machine engineered to imprint a design or graphic on a substrate, such as a t-shirt, with the application of heat and pressure for a preset period of time.

In addition to these five machines, the library has also received a Lego Mindstorm EV3 kit, Laminator Kit, Arduino Starter Kit, SparkFun Inventor’s Kit, Makey Makey, Camera and Video Creator Kit, Music and Recording Kit, Weller Soldering Kit and Button Maker Kit.

In three years at the end of the entire project, each participating library will receive some of the equipment. “We will get at least one piece of the equipment, but we don’t know what. If there is something that our patrons really like, we will probably seek funding for that equipment before the end of the three years,” Meir said. “So far, there has been a lot of interest in the 3-D printer, the router and the laser cutter, but we’re keeping track of how many people are using these machines to see which ones would have the most use.”

People who are trained on the machines will be allowed to use them. They may also make things for other people but there will be a charge for the materials and their labor. If staff agrees to make something for a person, it has to be done outside of their regularly scheduled hours.