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Should we have 3D printers in libraries?

by • May 4, 2016 • No Comments

One day we should have a 3D printing device in each household, but we are not there yet. So now the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy has posed the informative question: should we have one in each library as a public resource?

ALA Senior Policy Analyst Charlie Wapner conducted a study, together with the OITP and 3DPrint360 CEO Zach Lichaa, to discuss how America’s libraries can play a pivotal role in the 3D printing revolution. The resulting published paper is called: “Progress in the Making: Librarians’ Practical 3D Printing Questions Answered.

“Libraries represent the public on-ramp to the world of 3D printing and design,” said Dan Lee, chair of OITP’s Advisory Committee. “Library professionals who have adopted, or are looking to adopt, a 3D printing device must answer inquiries related to printing device operation and maintenance, workflow management, cost recovery, patron safety, and much additional. As a by-product of OITP’s policy advocacy on 3D printing devices and libraries, once again OITP is doing excellent work for libraries in providing this practical information to assist library professionals.”

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A new way for libraries

On the surface it manufactures absolute sense. Libraries have been marginalised in new years and have to reinvent themselves. There is so much written content out there for free and the traditional concept of borrowing books and actually films in physical form has fallen by the wayside. The likes of the Kindle, as well as Amazon’s Lending Library, mean folks can borrow books and other media without leaving the comfort of their own home.

So libraries require a physical reason for the public to use their services and 3D printing may be ideal. Libraries have become additional of a desktop workshop in new years, but as innovation gets additional accessible and so the institutions can just have to move to the upcoming level. Exploiting the vast pool of customers at its disposal to cover the worthwhile costs of 3D printing equipment is one obvious way of keeping libraries relevant.

Printers are yet expensive for people

3D printing devices are coming down in price, but the consumer variants are pretty rocky round the edges and far of the cutting edge. If libraries may invest in the most equipment, software packages and subscriptions to the primary databases of CAD files, they may re-establish themselves as a pillar of the community with this innovation alone.

This may manufacture the libraries a potent force once again and assist manufacture 3D printing a part of eachday life. We are certain to have private 3D print shops opening up on the high street, but if the library system adopts the system in one cohesive movement and so it may become the de facto supplier for public’s occasional 3D print requires.

This paper is the third one in the American Library Association’s series: “Progress in the Making.” All of them deal with the future impact 3D printing may have on the system. So this is additional than a casual interest. The ALA has previously released a PDF sheet of tips on how to print in three size and in 2014 it generated another paper on 3D printing in libraries.

Funding may be a stumbling block

There’s little doubt that the ALA wants to adopt 3D printing, but it either requires significant funding of government sources, that is complex to come by in this age of austerity, or it requires to ponder laterally. Sponsorship is the obvious version, alyet one 3D print supplier may struggle to cope with the costs of supplying primary libraries across the land with equipment.

So the libraries can have to go back to great old-fashioned fundraising drives in the local community to get the money to implement this brave plan. If they can find a solution, yet, 3D printing may be a ideal way forward for the ALA and libraries around the world that are struggling for a raison d’etre on an increasingly digital world.

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