published Monday, September 17th, 2012

Chattanooga Public Library cooking up creativity


by Cliff Hightower
A surplus television set sits on a table in the old archives and storage room on the fourth floor of the Chattanooga Public Library in downtown Chattanooga on Friday. The library plans to convert the room into a technology work space.
A surplus television set sits on a table in the old archives and storage room on the fourth floor of the Chattanooga Public Library in downtown Chattanooga on Friday. The library plans to convert the room into a technology work space.
Photo by Alyson Wright.

ON THE WEB

Take a look at Nate Hill's blog about the 4th Floor at http://4thfloor.chattlibrary.org/.

Worn-out books and dinged-up furniture are spread across the fourth floor of the Chattanooga Public Library.

Nate Hill wants more from the room than just junk. He imagines a place for creativity and thinking, a kitchen where technological dreams are cooked up.

"There's endless possibilities," said Hill, the library's assistant director of technology and digital initiatives.

Hill is creating his reality by transforming the top library floor into the "4th Floor" -- a place where technology and creativity intertwine.

The idea, he said, is to be flexible and address the needs the creator envisions. For example, if an author wants to publish an e-book, that person could come to the 4th Floor, perhaps learn about using a graphic design program and design his own cover.

Hill sees the possibility of a workshop where people can come and solder their electronics together. He even thinks there could be a robotic battle arena.

He wants projectors to stream You Tube videos or movies seamlessly. Perhaps people could even create the movies there, he thinks.

"The sky is the limit," he said.

The library is still working out funding. Hill will be writing a grant proposal within weeks to try to drum up to $20,000 from the state.

Library officials can't estimate a total cost because they're still not sure exactly what's going into the center and who may be willing to give them equipment, software or other items free.

Library Director Corrinne Hill, no relation to Nate Hill, said the money would come from a mixed pot. She plans to ask for money from the city, state and federal levels and also private institutions.

Partnerships with others involved in creativity could be key, she said. Those partners could donate some of the gadgets, gizmos and software programs to make the creative kitchen work, she said.

A creative laboratory in the downtown library would not be the first in the country, Nate Hill said, but it would be the largest. The Oak Park Public Library in Illinois has a similar set-up with its The Idea Box.

Oak Park Library Director Deirdre Brennan said The Idea Box opened in January at the site of the library's old cafe. In February, library patrons painted The Idea Box with magnetic paint and used magnets to create poetry for National Poetry Month, she said.

Right now, the library is in the midst of a library card drive. The Idea Box has a green screen set up and patrons can have a photo made that places them in front of a giant library card.

"It's a creative space that's always changing," Brennan said.

Nate Hill said the space on the 4th Floor also will change and said he's more excited about what fails than what works. He wants to try anything and everything.

He doesn't have an exact date on when the creative laboratory will be open to the public, but he wants the large room to be filled with creativity.

"That's the plan," he said. "It may fill up quicker than you think."

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