From Cleveland Plain Dealer:
CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland Public Library is getting a high-tech upgrade — one it says is the first of its kind in any U.S. library.
Today, the library unveils TechCentral, its downtown destination for computing and emerging technologies.
The center will give visitors access to dynamic, interactive technology unrivaled in any library in the country, said library Executive Director Felton Thomas.
Anyone with a library card can toy with tablet computers, print plastic 3-D models, engage in wireless computing and do much more in the 7,000-square-foot center on the lower level of the Louis Stokes Wing.
The $1 million center is more like a colorful Apple store than library room.
“We hope patrons will be wowed,” Thomas said. “We want people to come in to TechCentral and feel they are getting an experience they couldn’t get anywhere else.”
It begins with a 70-inch interactive monitor that will greet patrons and serve as a digital guide to the myriad services offered.
From there, tech toys abound.
The “Tech ToyBox” will give patrons a chance to try the latest tablets and e-readers.
The iPads, Kindles and other devices are tethered to countertops, but adults have the option of taking one home for a week at a time.
But be sure to return the costly gadget on time. The library charges a late fee of $3 per day.
Thomas said the library does not anticipate substantial losses from providing patrons with such expensive equipment, and that access to the technology is paramount.
“Many of our folks don’t have an opportunity to buy this technology,” Thomas said. “Our job is to provide it.”
TechCentral also delivers “MyCloud” wireless computing that allows adult patrons to check out laptop-like computers for use anywhere on the library’s grounds, including the outdoor reading garden.
“The future is not being tied down to one spot,” Thomas said. “The future is being able to compute wherever you want to go.”
The devices shut down if removed from the library, and the user’s drivers license is held until the computer is returned.
The center is also equipped with 90 desktop computers, allowing users to work on Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.
Patrons can use the workstations for two hours at a time. Those who cannot find an available workstation can swipe their library card to find when and where the next computer will be available.
The inexperienced should not be intimidated by all TechCentral has to offer, Thomas said. Library staff will be on hand to assist with everything from sending email to editing home movies.
It is all part of the library’s plan to provide the community a place to discover new technology and learn how to use it for personal and professional enrichment, the executive director said.
“Instead of being transactional, we have to be transformational,” he said.
TechCentral’s public grand opening is from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the lower level of the Stokes Wing. A community open house is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Attendees will be able to take part in demos of new and existing services and have the chance to win prizes.
Starting Monday, the center will operate during the library’s normal business hours — 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
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