Hot Off the Press

In April, a small crowd buzzed and murmured with anticipation, gathering around a large contraption in the center of the 3D printing space of the Frisco Public Library. Onlookers waited to hear what Shelley Holley, the library director, would reveal about the machine before them — the Trailblazer Press. This gorgeous day marked the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the first-ever full-color printing press in a public library in the southwestern U.S. 

Out of the 20,000 public libraries in North America, now, only two of them house these amazing machines, and one of them is in our very own Frisco! This unique printing press allows anyone to come with their thoughts, ideas, pictures and stories, put them together and print their very own book, for whatever purpose they have in mind. “It has been a long time coming,” an excited Ms. Holley admitted to the awaiting audience. She had first seen such a machine in 2007, watched it working and dreamed a big dream for our local library.

Ms. Holley sincerely thanked all the partners, donors and sponsors that had come to the event, letting everyone else present know just how many hands made this amazing feat possible. One of the biggest contributions perhaps was that of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in Austin and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The Frisco Public Library had to write a grant proposal in order to gain funding for this trail-blazing project, and it was finally submitted in March 2017. When they found out in August 2017 that they had in fact received the grant, they immediately got to work executing their long-time dream of bringing the people of Frisco together through the creation of the written word. 

Ms. Holley also went on to thank other major partners and sponsors, including the McKinney Public Library, the Frisco Heritage Association, Collin College, Friends of the Public Library and the Frisco ISD. “It takes a village to make something this amazing happen,” she effused through the microphone to the excited crowd. She then thanked and introduced Mayor Jeff Cheney, who had come to proudly cut the ribbon with the library staff. “The name is fitting,” Mayor Cheney said of the press’s moniker, as he stood before it, “because here in Frisco, our library is blazing trails every single day, and we are so proud of everything they do.” 

He continued, saying, “I am personally very excited to see how people choose to use this machine. Whether it is children coming to print their artwork, a business trying to develop a brand or, of course, authors who will finally be able to publish their book, I am just so happy to be able to offer this incredible asset to our community.”

There were many clicking camera shutters throughout the next few minutes, as the library staff and the mayor lined up at the shiny blue ribbon with pairs of scissors. They counted down from five until they snipped through the last barrier between the press and its new community. 

Everyone was captivated as they watched a book come to life in a live demonstration by the press. The walls of the Trailblazer Press are made of glass, so you can see every one of your books being printed and assembled. The machine is not just a printer for the interior pages of a book — it also assembles the block of pages, prints the cover in full-color and aligns, binds and makes the entire book before it delivers it directly to your hands. The intrigued onlookers and proud staff watched the press bring a block of pages from one side, a loaded cover from the other and join the two components in the middle. Glue melted at 350 degrees within the press was swiped along the spine edges of all 500 pages. Then, the cover and pages were pressed and clamped together properly until the binding set. The book traveled to the lower section of the press where its edges were cut and trimmed, and then the book passed through the final slot, literally hot off the press. 

As the book finished its process within the press, Ms. Holley laid out a few exciting possibilities of what bringing this amazing technology to the city could mean. “You can market your business; you can promote your product or idea; you can write something special and meaningful; you can produce one-of-a-kind items to pass down; or you can leave a legacy of that brilliant idea that is going to change the world.”

Women from the City Secretary Office were standing just behind the press and were called to the crowd’s attention as the honorary authors of the book that had just finished printing. They had indexed old city council records and city minutes books, scanned them and converted them into type scripts. The finished product lay bound and ready to be presented to Mayor Cheney. It included all the minutes from city meetings from 1908-1930.

Whether you want to print one book or hundreds, the Trailblazer Press can help you see your passion brought to life. It prints in black and white or in full-color, on either standard or premium paper, depending on the author’s preferences. It produces a finished product of the same quality as a book you could find in a bookstore. And if that is exactly where you want to see your book, you can even purchase ISBNs (identification numbers for distribution), LCCNs (which register your book through the Library of Congress) and barcodes through the library. Full information is listed on the library’s website at friscolibrary.com/trailblazerpress. You can also ask the well-informed and trained library staff for more information.

After the demonstration, staff, sponsors and local residents milled around excitedly, asking questions about the process, taking informational packets and offering referrals to the library’s website as they mulled over the possibilities this press could present. The director of public services, Mayra Diaz, was full of delighted energy at the great turnout and the successful execution of this long-time goal. When asked what made her the most excited, she replied, “Probably the potential for anyone anywhere in this area to produce their own book — to capture a slice of their life. Whether that is for business reasons, for personal reasons, for introspective and deeper reasons, the preservation of thoughts, actions, feelings and histories, all bound in a book, is priceless. Now, we have been able to make that process attainable.”

Ellen Zarate, who is head of youth services at the library, said, “I look at the Trailblazer Press and I see a spark that could start in anyone who realizes they have ideas to share. This job is about public servitude, and so my bosses are not so much Shelley and Mayra, but the people of this community. So, being able to offer this opportunity to the people we serve has really made us all feel so good.”

The people of Frisco will certainly struggle to find the best way to show their gratitude to their library for affording them such a privilege and outlet for creativity. The library has managed to bring things full circle! In a place that is all about books, you can now make your very own.