October 21, 2014
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Do-it-yourself fixers book on finding solutions
Beacon photos by Jennifer Rodrigues
COMPUTER INS AND OUTS: During the Warwick Library’s new Community Workbench Program, patrons are invited to bring malfunctioning or broken household items and work as a group to try and fix them. At Monday’s event, library technology coordinator Evan Barta, who runs the program, took time to show participants how to clean dust out of a computer.

Got a broken clock? What about a malfunctioning vacuum or a jammed DVD player? Are you really good at fixing things or enjoy trying to? Then Community Workbench, a new monthly program at the Warwick Public Library, may just be the place for you to meet new people, have fun and try your hand at fixing a variety of household items.

The new program, housed within the Library’s Idea Studio, is the brainchild of Evan Barta, technology coordinator at the library.

“I saw this idea on ‘Dateline,’” said Barta.

He saw a story about a small coffee shop in Chicago that hosted a monthly meet-up of people who enjoyed fixing things and people who needed household items fixed. Barta thought that was something that could be hosted at the Idea Studio, a facility with a variety of technology that opened in October 2013.

“It’s just a group of people who like to fix things, getting together and working on things,” said Barta.

Community Workbench debuted in March, and Barta said it was a success. A number of people showed up, and people brought a broken vacuum cleaner, a tape deck, a CD player and a coffee grinder. Barta even learned about using a soldering iron and how to fix a broken plug from attendees.

“I learned a lot of things last month,” he said.

The second Community Workbench event was held this past Monday. To add to the event, Barta decided that he would hold an informal 15-minute presentation (or let a community member hold one) at each meeting to teach simple fix-it skills. His first presentation was on helpful tips to improve your computer’s speed.

A handful of people came out specifically for the presentation on computers, but others brought items they wanted to try and fix. One couple brought an old wall clock that had stopped working, and Warwick resident Ed Palumbo brought a small tablet he was having difficulty getting to work.

“It was very helpful,” said Palumbo about the event.

Although he was unable to address the concerns about his tablet, Palumbo found the presentation on speeding up a computer very helpful. He was hopeful to take some of the tips Barta provided, purchase some more RAM for his computer, and get additional assistance in speeding up his device if necessary.

“It’s good…Once I’m shown something, I am really good at it,” he said.

The point of the program may be to help community members fix their household items, but it was also an opportunity to try and fix a broken wire in the library’s 3D printer. Barta and a few of the participants tried to use tools to insert a wire back into place; it had disconnected prior to the last 3D printer workshop.

Participants are welcome to bring their own tools to Community Workbench, but the library also has tools available.

“Most things can be fixed with tools we have in the library, if not in the most efficient way,” said Barta.

Barta’s specialty is in computers and technology, but he stressed that he will not fix broken computers for library patrons. He would rather teach someone simple steps they can take to try and correct problems on their own.

Barta also cannot guarantee that he or anyone in the group will be able to fix every problem with every item, but they will try.

“I don’t really want to put rules on this,” said Barta when asked if there were certain items that could be brought into the workshop.

Even with only two past events, there are already some regulars at Community Workbench. Buttonwoods resident Bill Hooper enjoys fixing things; he spent 25 years as a machinist in the Navy.

“I’ve been working with my hands since I was a kid,” said Hooper.

Hooper ventured into the Idea Studio to use the 3D printer when he met Barta and learned about Community Workbench. He attended the first event and was the participant who showed Barta how to fix a broken plug in the Studio. He arrived for the second with a makeshift toolbox in hand, hoping to help as many people as he could.

“It gets people together. People learn things. People like me have fun,” said Hooper.

Barta plans to hold a Community Workbench on the first or second Monday of each month, depending on the Studio’s availability. The May Community Workbench will be held on May 12 at 6:30 p.m.


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