February 23, 2019 7:57 pm

New Okanagan learning lab stirs creativity, imagination with some pretty cool technology

Hundreds of people came out to celebrate the grand opening of the Westside Learning Lab in West Kelowna. Community reporter Shay Galor reports.

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The latest addition to the Okanagan Regional Library system celebrated its grand opening Saturday to the loud cheers and excitement of the West Kelowna community.

“Right now we’re standing in the Westside Learning Lab,” said branch head librarian Jessica Whu. “People mentioned how they wanted to learn new things. They wanted to get more comfortable with technology and also (wanted) a meeting space for the community.

“So that’s what’s informed this vision for the learning lab.”

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The branch has been about two years in the making. It’s full of high tech gadgets.

“The audio recording studio is one service. We also have our 3D printer,” Whu said. “And our material cutter, the Cricket Maker, you can use that to cut materials — from vinyl to wood to fabric. We can see many people using that who might be interested in do-it-yourself projects.”

And that’s not all. There are tables full of ultra-cool electric devices, including several digitization stations.

“You can bring your tape cassettes, your VHS tapes, your vinyl records or just negatives and slides that you have, and you can digitize all that and preserve those memories,” Whu said.

This shifting of focus from a building with books to a community hub where modern technology inspires creativity and collaboration is a trend that is becoming more and more popular with community libraries.

“I think libraries are stepping into this wonderful realm of giving access to people to tech to expand their learning and to encourage imagination,” Whu said.

READ MORE: New UBC Okanagan innovation hub to turn students into entrepreneurs

The biggest fans of the new hub? The kids, of course.

“It’s really cool. I like the library. I really want to come back,” said one boy who was working on an electric circuit.

Another little girl was thrilled with all the arts and crafts material and equipment available.

“I like it mostly because of the crafts because I’m a crafty person. I’m also excited about the 3D printer there.”

Along with printing and crafting, there will also be opportunities for coding, robotics, material design and electronics.

Add to that a sound booth for recording audio projects such as podcasts and a room with a green screen to create videos.

There’s a whole lot to do other than read books at this ultra-modern learning lab.

But if reading is still your thing, not to worry. The branch will offer a small collection of reading material and have book holds available for pick-up and returns.

The Westside Learning lab will have weekly workshops, drop-in sessions and even one-on-one private lessons.

There are already several workshops posted on the ORL website including Intro to 3D Printing, Computer Basics and Audio Stories Workshops.

It’s all free of charge with just one requirement — a library card.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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