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Dispatches from Texas Libraries: The Foundry (UT Austin) and Arlington Public Library

2017 April 11
by Kyla Hunt

Last week I accompanied our two Library Technology Consultants Cindy Fisher and Henry Stokes to the University of Texas at Austin’s Fine Arts Library.  There, we received a tour of the Foundry  (UT Libraries’ maker space) from the wonderful Boris Brodsky. Brodsky is the Arts and Creative Technologies Librarian at UT Fine Arts Library.

The Foundry provides the only space on the UT campus where any faculty or student member can (with registration) obtain access to 3D printers, laser cutters, embroidery and sewing tools, a recording studio, and even a virtual reality headset. Partially funded through a grant from the Hearst Foundations as well as through internal funding from UT Libraries and the University. The Foundry provides a collaborative space where students and faculty alike can experiment and create with different types of technology.

Throughout our tour, Boris would provide examples of how members of the university utilized the tools available. A Geology graduate class used the 3D printer; the video wall had been used with an animation class; a student with a personal band used the recording studio. The Foundry is quickly becoming a hub of creation and collaboration for the University of Texas, and it was truly inspiring to see it as it comes into focus.

One of the highlights of the visit for Cindy, Henry and me was the ability to try out their HTC Vive virtual reality system. This was my first experience with a virtual reality system outside of Google Cardboard, and it was valuable to experience in terms of where the future of technology (in and out of libraries) may lead. Pictures from our visit can be found below; for videos of Texas State Library consultants trying out the Vive, be sure to attend my upcoming Top Tech Trends session at TLA on Thursday April 20 at 4:15 in room 217D!

While the Foundry is an extremely ambitious example of a maker/technology space, it is a brilliant example for librarians from all sizes and types of libraries of ways to incorporate technology into their own libraries. A great example of incorporating these types of emerging technologies from a public library can be found at the Arlington Public Library’s Southeast Branch Library. This library provides a Virtual Reality Experience program for patrons aged 10-18 using the same HTC Vive system available at the Foundry. Eight patrons (the first in line) get to experience the system per session, and the rest of the attendees watch. When I asked the Community Librarian Marla Boswell whether these patrons got bored, she answered “you get to see on the screen what the player is seeing, so it’s fun to watch. “The Vive was made available to the Arlington Public Library through a former employee, and according to Boswell, “uses STEAM which is a PC gaming platform. The platform is free, but the costs for the games vary.”

Keep an eye on the blog for more information on upcoming TLA presentations from the Texas State Library over the next week!


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