AKRON, Ohio —

If you ever wanted to dabble in displaying professional artwork on your walls, did you know there's a way you could do it for free? Or maybe you want to make a professional recording but don't have access to the right equipment, the Akron-Summit County Public library is the place for you.

The library is getting creative to stay relevant and to bring people through their doors.

“With an increase in the borrowing of digital materials that do not require visiting a library, in-person visits have decreased slightly,” says Library Director Pamela Hickson-Stevenson.

That’s why the library is expanding beyond books and offering patrons everything from kitchen tools like cake pans, fondue pots and a French press to the latest technology incorporating laser printers and free studio time.

TECHZONE@MAIN

“The first thing I saw was this studio and I was like ‘Oh, It’s free,’” says hip-hop musician, Floco Torres.

Torres moved to Akron two years ago and produced most of his last album, “Nobody Cares News,” in the library’s recording studio for free. 

“Studio time is expensive. Studio space is expensive. Studio equipment is expensive so for the library to be offering these things for free in four hour blocks is super important.”

The studio is part of the Library's TechZone@Main, a space where people can use the latest technology to bring their ideas to life.

Retired art teacher Susan Yingling is a regular user of the library’s laser engraver.

“This gave me a new reason to explore another whole art field. I’ve been painting and doing collage work but adding this, to me took my work to another level. It almost makes me wish that I was still teaching and could have this in my classroom because just the work I could envision students doing is beyond anything I ever could do.” 

AKRON ART LIBRARY 

For those who may not want to make art but just borrow it, the popular Akron Art Library program is for you.

Partnering with the Akron Art Museum, the library has 27 original pieces from local artists available for people to borrow free of charge for four weeks.

“There are some other libraries in other states that are looking into starting this kind of collection. We’re one of the very few to my knowledge in the entire country currently that is doing this and we’re definitely the first any where in Ohio to do it,” says Bob Ethington, manager of the library’s Culture and AV Division.

“It’s just like checking out a book, completely free. Bring it back in time and you don’t owe a cent,” says Ethington.  

The pieces are currently available at the main branch in downtown Akron. Ethington says the library will be getting 10 more works of art to add to their collection within the next few months.

“It's turned out to be an incredibly popular program. There’s actually one guy who credits having this artwork in his house for selling his house.”

AN ADVOCATE FOR THE RESOURCES

Torres, who is currently using the library’s recording studio to produce his latest song, Flamenco, has become one of the library’s biggest advocates.

“I hope people continue to use the resources while they’re here,” says Torres. “Use the resources and see what comes out of it.”