“I want to expose the community to something they haven’t seen before.” These are not words of a scientist or a CEO of a tech company, but from Bernadette Rivard, Director at the Bellingham Public Library in Bellingham, MA. She is a truly innovative library director that doesn’t let many hurdles get in her way. A year and a half ago, Rivard applied for and received an MBLC grant for a 3D printer and other scientific tools. “The box came and I had no idea how to use the 3D printer, but I just opened it up and started working with it. It took about two months for staff to learn and feel comfortable enough with it to then start offering opportunities with it to the community.”
Listening to Rivard speak about her work with this tool and many others including the 3D scanner, 3D drawing pen, Little Bits kits, and Makey Makey kits would get anyone excited about making something. Her enthusiasm, attitude about science, and understanding about the barriers in the library has brought about a whole shift in how the library functions. The library is working with the community much more closely than ever before including having a school class doing part of their work at the library using a seismograph (located in the library) and partnering with the Western Observatory.
The library has the 3D Systems Cube 3D second generation printer. Currently, Bellingham offers 3D printer training sessions twice a week for patrons to come and learn how to use it and to learn more about 3D CAD design (Computer Aided Drafting). These instruction times are focused for adults and high school age students and are a mix of video tutorials, discussion, practice with design, and printing. The signature pieces that Rivard likes to print are a rook chess piece and a nut and bolt that screw together.
Also, popular with library patrons are the “science open house” events that the library holds periodically. All the science tools, trainings, and events have expanded the library’s capacity and the community’s use and knowledge of STEM topics as both youth and adults are getting more hands-on opportunities. Rivard’s advice to other libraries when it comes to science tools and tech in the library is to “ask for help,” and know that she has many of the same challenges with “staff, space, and funding” as most all other libraries do. What are some next steps for Bellingham Public Library? Rivard is hoping to move from the desktop 3D printer to a more advanced 3D printer such as the one through NVbots (http://nvbots.com/) to see if generates even more interest.