Libraries have served as the first point of access for new technologies in the United States for decades, notably with desktop computers and the internet.
When it comes to 3d printing, the American Library Association is continuing this legacy by taking a progressive and proactive position to educate librarians on the most effective, cost conscious and safest ways they can implement 3d printing inside their branches.
"Libraries do not simply help individuals acquire the skills required for operating a 3D printer and then step back," Charlie Wapner of the ALAwrote in December. "They also leverage 3D printing technology to prepare students for participation in today’s increasingly knowledge-based economy. From elementary school to graduate school, instructors and librarians are integrating 3D printing into the learning process to maximize competence in high-demand science, engineering and technical subjects."
The cost of implementing 3d printing will be a major factor in determining how quickly libraries implement the technology, and libraries are playing with different models when it comes to charging members. Some will take the approach of charging for material by weight, while some will offer the printing for free provided their members bring their own material.
One good example of this latter approach comes from our friends at theMorgan Library at Colorado State University. They have developed a comprehensive approach to implenting 3d printing, by offering classes on "available technologies, safety hazards and protocol, materials, preparation, and techniques for using the on-campus 3D printers," and have determined that "printing in the library is free as long as users provide their own materials."
This is just one example of how a library can choose to offer on-site classes and charge their members for using 3d printers. As more and more libraries begin to offer 3d printing and the American Library Association continues to stress the importance of 3d printing at the local branch level, scalable approaches to implementation will develop in the next 12 months.