Los Angeles Central Library. Image © Michael Locke
Los Angeles Central Library. Image © Michael Locke

LA Public Library’s New Maker Space/Studio Lets You 3D Print, Shoot On A Green Screen, And Way More

in Feature/Philanthropy

The Los Angeles Public Library wants to make it easier for you to make stuff. The new Octavia Lab maker space/audiovisual studio at the L.A. Central Library is 3,000 square feet designed to help you make your thing. It lets you do everything from 3D printing and using a laser cutter to filming on a green screen and using fancy sewing machines.

“We are wildly enthusiastic about it,” City Librarian John Szabo said. “This is a space that is an equalizing space. This is an opportunity for the poorest child in L.A. to have access to some incredibly expensive technology that they might not have at school.”

Science fiction author Octavia Butler (Courtesy LAPL)

The lab is named for Octavia Butler, pioneering science fiction author.

“We actually asked our staff to ponder what it should be named, because we had a working name of ‘Digital Learning Space,'” Szabo said.

When the idea of naming it after Butler came up, everyone came together around the idea, Szabo said.

“She was a dedicated bibliophile and a great user of the Los Angeles Public Library, and specifically the Central Library,” Szabo said.

She even kept her paper library slips where she’d requested various books — you can check those out in her archives at the Huntington Library.

Using the lab is free, but you do need to call to reserve specific equipment. There are fees for using the supplies necessary with some of the equipment, but the use of the equipment itself is free.

The lab’s hours are limited — it’s open four hours a day, Monday through Saturday. It’s 1-5 p.m. most days, but runs 3:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

AWWWWW courtesy 3D printing (Courtesy LAPL)

The idea for the lab first came up three to four years ago, according to Szabo. They put the money for it together and started construction in the last six to nine months.

“There will be young people who will become engineers because of some experiences that they’ve had in the space, or will pursue a sound editing career, or what-have-you,” Szabo said.

One of the facility’s signature features is their DIY Memory Lab, which helps you to digitize your personal media. It can handle slides, negatives, prints, VHS tapes, audio cassettes, floppy disks, and more. You have to provide your own drive to put the digitized material on, but the library aims to help you preserve your memories.

Can’t make it to the lab? The library also offers a mobile version of the memory lab, coming out to branch libraries around L.A.

The library held a big opening for the space this week, with representatives from Octavia Butler’s estate, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, and other dignitaries coming to check it out.

Showing off 3D-printed objects at the Octavia Lab’s opening. (Courtesy LAPL)

A list of all the tools available in the Octavia Lab:

  • DIY Memory Lab
  • Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Wacom Tablets
  • Laser Cutter
  • 3D Printer
  • CNC Mill
  • HP Sprout/3D Scanner
  • Silhouette Cutting Tool
  • Roland Vinyl Cutter
  • Epson Large Format Printer
  • Sewing Machines
  • Serger
  • Computerized Embroidery Machine
  • HTC Vive – VR
  • Green Screen Backdrop/Buff Screen Backdrop
  • Lighting Equipment
  • Final Cut Pro
  • Pro Tools
  • Microphones
A creative fortune, courtesy the Octavia Lab. (Courtesy LAPL)

If you’re feeling stuck, the library also has some instant inspiration available — a gumball machine filled with Octavia Butler quotes, paper fortunes, and project inspirations involving the lab’s equipment.

They plan to hold special classes and programs focused on the various equipment that’s available.

They also plan to celebrate Octavia Butler’s birthday with an open house on June 22 — including cake.

You can find out more on the lab’s website. To reserve equipment, call (213) 228-7150.

Words by MIKE ROE for the LAIST