3D printers in the real world

User responses to 3D printers has been incredibly positive - but offering a 3D printing service comes with its own issues.

A makerspace has been defined as a location where students and patrons can participate in active and engaged learning. They can create, engage, question, problem solve, build and let their imaginations go wild (Preddy, 2013). 3D printers are a popular technology used in maker areas and also a type of printer that allows for user ideas, designs, and drawings to become reality in a 3D and tangible model (Kurt and Colgrove, 2012).

As new librarians are moving into the fields of librarianship and information science, the libraries where they will be engaged are ever-changing and ever-growing. Of many new developments in library services and learning spaces two of the most popular at this time are the integration of 3D printers and maker spaces. While exciting, this new technology and these creative spaces for learning come with their own challenges, successes, planning, and implementation. Whether new librarians (or even experienced ones) are ready, new technology and changes in librarianship continue to emerge. Mark Anderson from the Chicago Public Library had this to say about the implementation of their makerspace:

When we opened it everybody had heard of 3D printing, nobody had seen it in person, but everyone had heard of it and were intrigued and so it was perfect timing for that…We're trying to expose people to new things and also play with what the library's role should be.

User response to maker spaces and 3D printers in libraries has been incredibly positive but offering these services comes with their own brand of issues and complications. Since the technology is so new there are very few places to go for professional development or staff training. Librarians and library staff have to work with these technologies and spaces with a sense of adventure, as well as with little fear for failure. 3D printers are not the most intuitive technology and sometimes there can be a learning curve. Maker spaces as well can be messy and noisy and these services may not be for everyone. Staffing, training, funding, can be some of the challenges. On the other hand these library services have delivered wonderful opportunities for exploration, project building, collaboration, and artistic creativity.

During the Internet Librarian International 2014 Conference session titled 3D Printers in the Real World, Heather Moorefield-Lang will discuss her experiences in gathering case study narratives from librarians at the public school, public library, and academic library levels. During the past year she has had the pleasure to speak with librarians across the United States and Canada about their maker spaces and 3D printer technologies and the implementation of each. During this session these technologies and learning spaces will be discussed and shared. Information gathering and discussion from the ILI participants will be encouraged as well. 

You can hear Heather Moorefield Lang (University of South Carolina, US) speaking about 3D printers in session B102 at Internet Librarian International 2014