Library Opens Digital Commons

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Library Opens Digital Commons

Entrepreneurs, start-up ventures, tech novices, students and makers have a new place to see their ideas become reality.  Today, the DC Public Library opened the Digital Commons, an 11,000 square-foot place to connect, collaborate and co-work using technology for free.

“The Digital Divide is now more than just access to computers and the Internet,” said Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper.  “As technology continues to expand how people seek employment, work and create, Digital Commons is a place where the District's growing community of entrepreneurs, developers, designers, students and educators can create using state-of-the-art software and equipment for free.”

The Digital Commons features include 48 public access PCs, 12 express computers; 12 iMacs; 4 iMacs with high-end design software; 3 computers for individual assistance; a 3-D printer; an Espresso Book Machine for self-publishing; an eReader device bar with several types of readers to show Library users how to download eBooks and other digital content; a Skype station; and a videophone for customers who communicate using American Sign Language.

In addition to helping to bridge the Digital Divide, Digital Commons supports District’s economic development strategies by educating and preparing the workforce for a technology-based economy and supporting local entrepreneurs with meeting spaces and mentorship opportunities.

The Digital Commons features the Dream Lab a membership-based collaborative space for small organizations, start-ups, non-profits, groups and individuals who will use technology to develop and sustain new ventures.  Members will have access to flexible workspace equipped with tables, chairs, WiFi, SMART boards and conference rooms. In exchange for using the space, each Dream Lab member will be required to provide a minimum of one hour of public programming each month related to technology or digital literacy.

Spaces like Digital Commons represent a growing trend in public libraries.  While libraries in Chicago, Cleveland and Chattanooga, Tenn., have opened spaces with this type of technology, the District is the first to feature a space of this size and scope.

The Digital Commons replaced the Business, Science and Technology room.  It was part of a $3.4 million in improvements to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library that included refurbishing information and circulation desks and adding a new sound system in the Great Hall.  MCN Build, a CBE firm, performed the renovation work.