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Innovate, Discover, Experience, Achieve: The IDEA Labs at San Diego Public Library provides a space where patrons can learn to make creative projects through a DIY approach, direct experimentation, and from each other. There are several IDEA Labs systemwide with more being planned. The Labs are welcoming of all ages with some Labs dedicated specifically for teens. Each Lab has a theme reflecting community interest and needs. IDEA Lab themes include entrepreneurship, life science, digital textile arts, architectural design, and sustainability. Having a specific focus for each Lab has led to unique tech in library spaces, such as a fully functioning life science bio lab and a music studio equipped with sound recording booths, mics, and loaner instruments. Across the Labs, patrons have access to various makerspace equipment: 3-D printers, Silhouette Cameo desktop cutters, sewing and embroidery machines, Glowforge laser printers, and dye sublimation printers. At select locations, the IDEA Labs also offer software for 3D design, graphic design, A/V editing, and coding. Along with making and digital arts services, some IDEA Labs have available digital conversion equipment, capable of digitizing analog media such as VHS, 8 mm film, audio cassette, vinyl records, floppy disks and more. The Labs frequently host workshops and programs to inspire creativity and to showcase the Labs’ offerings. Having IDEA Labs spread across the system ensures equitable access to emerging technologies and life-long learning opportunities for patrons served by San Diego Public Library.


Highlights of the IDEA Labs include the following:

  • Used 3-D printers to make PPE face shields for medical staff in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; the printers made about 50 shields per day, or 300 per week.
  • Received grant funding for equipment and spaces like the Central Library IDEA Lab’s Digital Memory Lab and the Legler Benbough Teen IDEA Lab.
  • Collaborations with partners such as EcoLogik to host engaging and educational programming for underrepresented groups in the STEAM field.
  • Staffing labs with knowledgeable volunteers of wide-ranging backgrounds including science, engineering, and the arts to enrich the Labs and help forge more connections with the users of the space.

To learn more about the IDEA Labs, listen to this episode from “Listeners’ Advisory: The San Diego Public Library’s Podcast”: