What is the purpose of a library? Although the answer may seem obvious, consider the fact that many people had their first experience of the Internet in a library. Today, with computers and free Wi-Fi coming as standard in most public libraries, they have evolved to become much more than buildings containing collections of books.
Public libraries are the most popular civic resource that local government offers. They are now community centres where people can connect not only with authors but with each other and the wider world. It is in this community spirit that a growing number of libraries are beginning to offer public access to cutting-edge 3D printing technology.
The case for inclusion of 3D printing technology in libraries is compelling. Whether we’ll all have 3D printers in our homes in the future is up for debate, but there is certainly no question that 3D printing will play a much greater role in our day-to-day lives in the years ahead. Products are being developed and even manufactured in ever increasing numbers with 3D printing technologies. Individuals are now running their own businesses armed with Robox to design and manufacture custom, bespoke products (Chompworks is a great example). Children are being taught in a growing number of primary and secondary schools with 3D printers to help inspire design creativity and improve student engagement (Robox is also the #1 choice in schools). With ready, free access to computers and the Internet, libraries are surely the best places to provide wider public access to this game-changing technology.
Providing access to 3D printing technology is also a fantastic way to get people through the door and excite the younger generation. And once engaged, people will get to see some of the other new and exciting services being offered by many libraries. Public libraries in Scotland are already offering services such as coding clubs for 9-11-year-olds and innovative projects in England such as Glass Box in Taunton Library are offering open and friendly community spaces to support budding entrepreneurs, small businesses and creative minds. 3D printers could also act as an additional revenue stream for libraries in the future to support the costs of consumables. (Robox advises how much a print job will cost before printing.)
Scots know a good thing when they see it
I’ve written previously about Robox being part of a UK-first 3D printing programme in primary schools across the country. Now I have the pleasure to report that, after careful consideration by the Scottish Library & Information Council (SLIC) detailed in their report, 3D Printing in Scottish Public Libraries, Robox has been selected for rollout in Scottish libraries too.
After some positive early 3D printing experiences in a small number of libraries, SLIC made a successful bid to the Scottish Government in 2015 to expand and develop this growing area of interest and skills development. SLIC’s £76,000 3D printing project is now being rolled out across Scotland to all library services to improve access to this exciting new technology and encourage creativity in communities.
The inclusion of 3D printing activities is helping libraries in Scotland support the recommendations in a report commissioned by the Scottish Government in their vision for public libraries, Ambition and Opportunity, A Strategy for Public Libraries in Scotland 2015-2020, in a number of key areas:
Each library service has appointed a 3D Printing Champion to promote and support 3D printing activities and develop bespoke projects within their local communities. Feedback on the projects has been overwhelmingly positive so far. Such activities fit with SLIC’s vision for libraries in the 21st Century and help ensure they remain exceptional value for money, where every £1 of public money invested in libraries generates up to £8 of benefits to the communities they serve:
Pamela Tulloch, Chief Executive of SLIC comments: “I believe 3D printing in public libraries offers huge potential for local communities to learn and create. Thanks to additional funding from the Scottish Government, more people will have access to this exciting technology. Who knows what it might lead to in some communities – the possibilities are endless and ground-breaking ideas can come from the most unexpected places.
“This is just one of the innovative projects underway in libraries across Scotland to meet the aims of the public library strategy, which we launched last year. A key aspect of the strategy is to ensure libraries reflect the needs of modern communities. The 3D printing project is an excellent demonstration of the ability of libraries to adapt to the changing needs of communities, ensuring they remain relevant in an increasingly digital world.”
I’ll be delivering a 3D printing workshop in Taunton Library on 28th October between 2pm and 5pm when I’ll be offering a demonstration of free design tools and Robox itself. If you’d like to see 3D printing in action at the Glass Box, get in touch and come along!