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3D Printers and Makerspaces in Libraries

Three 3D printers on a table

Makerspaces are areas in the community were people with common interest can gather and work on projects. Many of these projects are centered around technology and include robotics, computers software, 3D printing, and more. These spaces are designed to encourage innovation and collaboration on a variety of topics. While many communities use people’s homes or rent office space for these type of activities, libraries are beginning to open their doors to these innovators. Many public libraries are offering programming centered on the makerspace idea and encouraging the community to come in and innovate.

The Westport Public Library in Westport, Connecticut was one of the first public libraries to open a makerspace to the public. To excite the community the library first had a makerfair which allowed community members already involved in maker activities to display what they had been working on and spark conversation for those who may be new to or interested in working in a makerspace. More about the Westport Public Library Makerspace include projects, programs, and informative videos can be found online. Chicago Public Library recently opened the Innovation Lab proving tools, technology, and resources for users as well as workshops can classes on various topics.

In academic institutions makerspaces for students, faculty, and staff are also being embraced. The library typically provides a space as well as emerging technology equipment such as 3D printers. Such makerlabs have already been introduced at the North Carolina State University (NCSU) of the University of Michigan. The NCSU Libraries Makerspace provides users with access to 3D printers and laser cutters. Students are billed for the time the use the lab as well as for some of the materials used. The University of Michigan 3D Lab is located in the Digital Media Commons area of the library and provides uses with access to 3D printing as well as motion capture and advanced visualization tools. The area is open to the entire academic community include health science students and researchers. Technology provided by the 3D Lab recently allowed architects and physicians to collaborate on design they could see using hospital room visualization technology.

The Claude Moore Health Sciences Library at the University of Virgina recently added a 3D printer to their growing number of emerging technologies available for use by library users.

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