Libraries in the UK have suffered from years of underfunding and government indifference. It’s no surprise that there’s no money for 3D printers in our libraries.
However, it’s a different story on the other side of the pond. Certain states in the US have seen the potential of 3D printing as an educational tool, and have allowed the public to get to grips with it up close.
As far back as 2014, people were discussing the concept of 3D printing as a public service at libraries. In his article Making it Real: 3D Printing as a Library Service, Patrick Colegrove said:
“The New Media Consortium (NMC) and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) have repeatedly identified 3D printing as an important development in educational technology, most recently forecasting a mere two to three years before widespread adoption.”
We have previously discussed the benefits of 3D printing in education, whether it’s for young pupils or senior students. With this in mind, having a 3D printer for public use at local libraries does not seem so far fetched.
Libraries are the greatest place for external learning. Although that used to mean books alone, the humble community library has tried to embrace computers, printers, and scanners as a way of educating local people - particularly the elderly. It seems right that the a 3D printer should become part of a library’s arsenal.
A Transformative Vision
As the US takes the lead in making 3D printers a normal aspect of the library, we discovered a revealing article in Getting Smart by Lizabeth Arum, who talks about how the library is becoming a second lab for many STEM students across the US. In it she says:
“Libraries have always been communal spaces that have been set up to share and give access to learning and enrichment resources, and the introduction of new technologies is part of the mission to teach 21st-century skills. 3D printing is an example of the type of resource that is transforming today’s libraries into cutting-edge learning hubs and giving communities access to technologies that are having significant impact on such fields as scientific research, architecture, manufacturing, engineering, healthcare and more.”
With the addition of a 3D printer, it really is a tool that could transform the library into something even broader. We already know that students and freelancers use the library on a daily basis, and for students of the STEM fields there is huge potential here. Remember that STEM students are those who need to continually create and experiment in their projects, and to be able to have access to a 3D printer will be a very useful thing indeed.
What we must remember is that the library has always been a space for learning. When schools and universities are closed, it’s the library where people can come to explore and learn further. Having a 3D printer will only enhance that.