London Public Library program offers students free access to professional equipment

A photo of the Central Branch of the London Public Library. CREDIT: FINCH NEVES
The London Public Library offers a program allowing users access to professional equipment for a multitude of creative endeavors, free of charge.

The London Public Library is best known for its wide selection of books, but hidden behind the towering rows of biographies, novels, and memoirs is something special: The Labs.

Located in the Central Branch at 251 Dundas St., The Labs are a collection of separate workspaces with professional grade equipment. Workspaces available include a media lab, vinyl cutter, sewing station, video editing station, button maker, 3D printer, digitization station, and a fully functional recording studio. While not every piece of equipment that could be used is present, the library has provided far more than the basics to guarantee that the spaces are of a professional quality.

For students looking to start a business with their skills, but lacking the equipment necessary, The Labs are a blessing. Time can be booked to use the spaces within library hours, so long as the user has a library card, government issued ID, and is more than 13 years old. For many who are still honing their skills, there may be a barrier past equipment alone, which the library has solutions for as well.

The Fanshawe College Student Services and Here For You logos are shown. A young woman is shown sitting at a desk. Text states: Supoort comes in many forms. Experience flexible services that support you where you are. myfanshawe.ca/hereforyou

Classes on the software and equipment used within the spaces are offered frequently and there is often a volunteer tech tutor on site.

“It is awesome! We have a test on Avid Pro Tools in our program, but only a few of the computers have it, so it can be hard to practice. The Labs not only has it, but also has free classes I can take on the program,” said Alex Mclean, a Fanshawe student who frequently makes use of both the recording studio and 3D printer.

While no equipment is needed to use the workspaces, some do require you to come prepared, or offset the cost. The 3D printer workstation requires the use of a filament that the library provides in exchange for a $1 base price plus 10 cents per gram used. The sewing workspace also requires you to bring your own fabrics.

“The 3D printer is great. All I need to do is email them a file and they handle the rest. The price for the filament is way less than it would be for me to buy it and that is not even considering the price of the 3D printer itself,” Mclean said.

The Labs opened in 2018 and have been available since, with the exception of closures due to the pandemic. The library constantly updates existing workspaces and is always working to add new ones for the public. For students, The Labs can be an invaluable tool that allow them to start their own businesses without needing to invest in equipment or software, which for many can be an immovable hurdle.

Whether you experiment with 3D printing, video editing, or even creating original music, the London Public Library has the tools for the job. You can find out more by visiting their website and checking the Featured Spaces section of their Services and Spaces header.