Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Public Libraries and Cricut Machines

While going through my email, I noticed on the PUBYAC list-serv a post asking about using a Cricut or similar machine in a library setting. I thought some others might be interested in what I had to say. Here is an edited version of what I responded with. Remember this is just my personal experience at home and work.

I have a Cricut Expression at home (bought it in September 2010). The first one I bought at our local big box store, and it was a lemon. But ProvoCraft's customer service was very good about getting this fixed for me after I sent in the machine to them. My replacement machine works very well and I have enjoyed using it.

There is now a newer version of the Expression (which I have not researched). After seeing some of the things mine can do, my director purchased an Expression for our library this spring. You can see some of my projects for yourself on my blog: http://sotomorrow.blogspot.com/search/label/cricut.

So far we mostly use the Cricut for bulletin boards and aisle markers. I have plans to use it for felt board stories, name tags, and other projects, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

Would it be able to withstand cutting out 25-50 shapes on a weekly basis?  I don't expect it to be as fast as a rolling die cutter, but is it relatively speedy? 
Yes, it can definitely cut that much. I would recommend buying scrapbook paper in bulk (I would get a few pads of solid colored sheets from a craft store in person or online. For a library, I would get the Expression (the biggest they sell).  It's not particularly quick and it can be frustrating if the paper doesn't want to stick to the mat. I usually program what I want to cut and walk away to work on something else while it cuts. (I set it up on a table near the reference desk and walk back and forth--my library does not have a staff workroom.) Cutting things would be a good project for a page, clerk, or volunteer.

What kind of maintenance does it require?  Can parts be replaced, or are you stuck buying a new machine when pieces wear out? 
Î have used mine at home for lots of different paper projects and the only things I have replaced are the cutting mat. Some Cricut users have had good luck using different methods of "resticking" their mat after the tackiness rubs off. I have not tried any of their methods myself. I haven't changed the blade yet, but I probably will next time I do a bigger project. 

Can you use other materials besides paper? 
Yes. You can watch videos online with different techniques. You might want to invest in a deep cut blade & housing. I have not tried this myself but it is possible to cut felt and other fabric. There are lots of videos on YouTube for these kind of tips, so I would definitely watch them to see all the neat things Cricut can do. This is on my to-do list for appliques at home.

Would you buy it again, if given the chance?
Maybe, but I would also research some of the other cutters designed for home use. An Ellison was way out of our price range and I am not sure we would have used it as much as the Cricut. It is not as flexible. Definitely shop online for a good price ($20-$30) on cartridges.

4 comments:

We totally love our cri-cut for all the reasons you said! We also have an ellison that has been gathering dust since we got the cri-cut. Fonts, shapes, doosles and patterns make us look sooo talented!

My director just gave us the go-ahead to submit any items we'd like to try for next fiscal year... I've been wanting one of these for home use, but this post got the hamsters spinning with all sorts of ideas for the library. Thanks! :)

Yay! I'm glad. I'm awfully fond of our Cricut at work, despite its flaws. The end results are definitely worth some of the frustrations.

I just see this as such a huge time saver, plus I like the idea of having a cleaner, more professional looking finished product. We're a little library who doesn't have the money to pay for professional poster/graphic design, so I pretty much use Microsoft clip art and photographs from sites like Flickr that I can search based on the Creative Commons designations they've been given by their creators. They don't talk about how much time creating materials for promoting events take(whether in take-away flyer formats or bulletin/kiosk displays) when you're in library school, that's for sure! :)