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Gwinnett County Public Library’s Suwanee branch offers more than just books; it’s also a high-tech resource for creative endeavors with its free Learning Lab.

Featuring everything from an iMac computer loaded up with industry standard creative software to a podcast station, and even a 3D printer, the lab aims to encourage visitors to try out a range of different artistic mediums. The design space even includes a sewing machine and serger.

“The library offers the Learning Lab because we want to provide everybody with the relevant resources they need to succeed,” said Kate Delaney, GCPL’s Learning Lab supervisor. “For some people that’s books. For some people it’s computer usage. For some people, they need a camera and some video editing software to create promotions for their small business. So we really, as opposed to being a purveyor of books, we are a purveyor of resources, of all kinds of resources.”

The Learning Labs began at the GCPL’s Five Forks branch in 2016, and the Suwanee lab has been open since March 2021. Delaney stressed that access to the lab is completely free to any resident of Gwinnett County who holds a library card.

The Learning Lab offers a truly vast array of industry standard technology, including top-of-the-line AV equipment complete with studio lighting and a green screen. The Prusa 3D printer creates high-quality prints and is perfect for middle and high school STEM students who may only have access to one machine at school shared amongst an entire class. The lab also provides a Cricut smart-cutting machine that precisely cuts vinyl, paper, stencils and more, a heat press to apply designs to various surfaces, and a top-of-the-line Wacom digital illustration tablet for creating digital artwork and graphic design.

For any musical visitors, the lab has plugins to record audio with electric guitars or keyboards that patrons are welcome to bring in as well as a professional vocal recording setup. The Suwanee branch is also one of only three in the county to offer a podcasting station, which boasts a premium XLR connection with up to four microphones. The room includes some soundproofing to help minimize echoes and the auditory footprint from the rest of the library. Despite all the technology, however, Delaney said the most popular equipment is still a close tie between the iMac and the sewing machine.

The library also doesn’t want patrons to feel intimidated by the abundance of high-tech tools, so the labs have resources to help guide any newcomers who might be curious about a particular device. In addition to all the resources and software for the 3D printer being pre-loaded onto the iMac, visitors can request the assistance of one of the Learning Lab specialists who are experts on all the equipment.

“With the Learning Labs, we’re really trying to expand people’s idea of what types of resources we can provide,” Delaney said. “So we can hit that niche of … young professionals and entrepreneurs and creatives, and be able to give those communities the resources that they need to be successful.”

The Learning Lab is available by reservation only to all Gwinnett County residents age 13 and older who hold a library card. Children under age 13 are welcome to use the lab under the supervision of an adult guardian. Eligible residents can reserve the lab at gwinnettpl.org/learninglabs by clicking on, “Make A Reservation.” To arrange for a Learning Lab specialist to assist you, click on “Book-a-Librarian.” Reservations can also be made over the phone by calling the GCPL helpline at 770-978-5154 or by visiting the help desk at any GCPL branch.

For those who live in Gwinnett County and don’t have a library card, one can easily be obtained by visiting gwinnettpl.org/get-a-library-card or via the helpline or help desks.

If you go

  • What: Learning Lab
  • When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays
  • Where: Gwinnett County Public Library’s Suwanee branch, 361 Main St.
  • Cost: Free with a GCPL library card
  • For more information: Visit gwinnettpl.org/learninglabs 

FEATURED PHOTO: The Gwinnett County Public Library’s Suwanee branch offers a range of high-tech equipment for patrons to use for free. Photo by Chris Bellows

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