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More internet access, maker's space coming to Niagara Falls public library system

 Students from Abate Elementary School in Niagara Falls utilize the newly opened maker's space within the public library's Main Street branch.
Michael Mroziak
Students from Abate Elementary School in Niagara Falls utilize the newly opened maker's space within the public library's Main Street branch.

The Niagara Falls Public Library System is receiving more than $210,000 in grants to help beef up its broadband and technology access. One of the key additions is a so-called “maker’s space,” which was opened in a formal ceremony inside the system’s Main Street branch.

The new maker’s space, supported by grants from the American Library Association and Grace Foundation, offers access to computers, crafting supplies, 3-D printers, snap circuits, a coding robot and other high-tech creative devices. Programming will soon be introduced for users of all ages.

“It is a library movement that began in Fayetteville, down the road just south of Syracuse, around 2008,” said Sarah Potwin, director of the Niagara Falls Public Library. “It is a programming space that allows citizens to explore new technology, and be creative using soft arts and crafts. Our Niagara Falls maker space is a new service, allowing our citizens opportunities to be inspired and be creative.”

As elected officials, members of the University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and other invited guests attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, a group of students from nearby Abate Elementary School were inside the space, keeping busy with graphic art software, snap-on electronic circuitry kits and 3D printing.

“Being able to have technological literacy to use a computer, to use a smartphone, to navigate the internet is just critical in our society,” said librarian Bridget Baker, who was standing by to assist the children as needed. “It's very difficult to navigate the world without that piece. So being able to learn it when you're young is a blessing. It's wonderful.”

And it’s not as widespread in Niagara Falls as it is in many other communities. According to Potwin, an estimated 30 percent of residents within the Cataract City lack access to the internet.

Another grant announced for the library system comes from the Federal Communications Commission, which is providing approximately $133,000 to buy 200 Chrome books and 200 Wi-Fi hot spots, which library card holders may borrow from both the Main Street and LaSalle branches.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.