“We used the 3D printers mostly for programming but also let members of the public print from it,” said Jessica Wilson, assistant director of Roddenbery Memorial Library, a single branch library system serving Grady County in south Georgia. She checked out a tech loaner kit for her library last fall from GPLS. “We’ve had patrons print specialty toys and small knickknacks, but also logo prototypes for their businesses.”
The tech kits must be reserved by a public library staff member, and libraries use them for a variety of purposes, such as programming for patrons or partnering with the community to make tech available for public use at the library.
Patrons can share their interest in using the technology with their librarian, who could reserve a kit from GPLS.
As an example, a librarian in West Georgia Regional Library System reserved a virtual reality kit for a patron, who produced a program for local teens using the equipment in a library conference room.
Librarian David Russell from the DeKalb Public Library recently checked out an oral history DigiKit from GPLS for three months. These kits contain various digitization technologies and digital recording devices. Each device comes with a charger, and each kit is housed in a ruggedized case.
“I reserved an oral history DigiKit so our patrons can record their stories digitally,” said Russell. “I prompt them with sample questions like, ‘What is a moment of kindness that has stuck with you?’”
He noticed that patrons would come into the library with general genealogy questions and express to him that they wished they had asked family members those questions while they were still alive.
“I believe in the power of storytelling,” said Russell. “I think it’s important for families to record this history for future generations.”
The recording device is tiny and connects to a laptop. With one click, it starts recording to a flash drive. Patrons can leave the library with the recording on a memory card that they brought from home or have the file emailed to them.
“Public libraries are in the business of removing barriers of access to knowledge and information, and one of the many ways they do that is through digitization,” said Angela Stanley, director of archival services and digital initiatives at Georgia Public Library Service.
GPLS introduced the oral history DigiKits in 2020 following the success of scanner DigiKits, which had been in circulation for two years. These kits are designed to support libraries in digitizing local historical materials, from photographs to microfilm to audio interviews. Libraries have used them to digitize African American funeral programs for preservation, host public scan day events, and document the pandemic’s impact on their local communities.
The DigiKits are popular; in the last five years, the 11 DigiKits have been in use by libraries for a combined total of 5,186 days – or more than 14 years.
Not all of the kits GPLS offers are technology related.
This spring, Georgia Public Library Service plans to launch Story Stroll kits for libraries to check out. These kits will feature a children’s picture book, with pages printed across 16-20 signs, that libraries can set up outdoors or in partnership with a local park. Story Strolls encourage families to read and be active together.
“We exist to serve Georgia public libraries and their communities,” said State Librarian Julie Walker. “We are proud to offer these resources to libraries, and we hope many more communities will reap the benefits.”