3D printerThe American Library Association (ALA) has just issued some fascinating advice to librarians on how to implement 3D printers in libraries. The new “Practical Advice” report, entitled “Progress in the Making: Librarians’ Practical 3D Printing Questions Answered,” according to ALA: “poses and answers sixteen practical questions related to establishing 3D printing as a library service.”

As Chris Meadows already noted, there is plenty of synergy between 3D printers and e-reading or digital device technology. There are also already plenty of templates and models out there for Kindle accessories and other handy add-ons for your favorite ebook reading device, whipped up by the eager international maker community. Anyone wanting to run up their own copy of one of these normally has to fall back on their local fab lab, or even Staples. But broader provision of 3D printing as part of library capabilities could build even more value in library services. And as ALA points out, libraries can also help bridge the affordability and knowledge gaps in public adoption of 3D printing technology.

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

It’s not hard to imagine a (very near) future where you could pick up an ebook from your local public library (via OverDrive or some such), then run up a custom Kindle cover from the 3D template cloud – or even a bundled offering with the ebook – to jazz up your device while reading your latest borrow. And until 3D fabricators become ubiquitous in every home, a 3D printer in your library helps perpetuate its value as a physical space and resource center. Rock on, fabbers.



  1. Should libraries have 3-D printers? No, that’s a bridge way too far out from their original purpose. The idea seems seductive, but only because it has “printer” in the name. They are only called that because their technology is similar.

    3-D printing is likely to settle into a nitche more like a cross between a Kinko’s and an auto parts store.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail newteleread@gmail.com.