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EDITORIAL: The future can be found at the library

With the Bethlehem Public Library’s recent acquisition of a three-dimensional printer, it’s becoming clear that area libraries are swiftly becoming high-tech information centers — ones that the general public has full access to.

For those of you not familiar with the technology, a 3D printer allows you to create a plastic replica of whatever your imagination can come up with. Do you have an idea for a new type of vehicle, or do you want to design a piece of jewelry? A 3D printer can help create a prototype, from which you can see how well it might work.

Long known for its industrial applications, 3D printing is now becoming a widespread phenomenon. Its endless possibilities are what make 3D printers so intriguing to the general public, which is why Bethlehem library information technology specialist John Love said he can’t wait to see what locals come up with as uses for it.

Bethlehem’s 3D printer, one of the first available for public use in the area, is the latest example of how libraries can introduce people to new technology that, in the recent past, seemed like the stuff of science fiction. For example, libraries are now offering a part of their catalogues for e-loans that can be downloaded to Kindles, Nooks, iPads and other e-readers. And if you didn’t know how to take out an e-book on loan, most libraries in the Upper Hudson Library system offer free courses on how to do it.

Can’t afford a high-speed Internet connection at home? You can go to your local library and browse the Internet on one of their computers. They were some of the first places where high-speed access was available. You’ll have to ask at the information desk what you can access and for how long you can stay on the computer, since there are regulations involved. But it is a good alternative for those who are operating on a limited budget. And if you don’t know how to use the Internet, libraries offer courses on how to do that, in addition to other technology platforms, such as digital photography and bookkeeping.

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