Anyone who knows me will tell you I am fascinated by—nay, in love with, the concept of 3-D printing technology.  My first exposure to the world of 3-D printing was last year at a Tech Boot Camp sponsored by the Georgia Public Library Service where I had the opportunity to watch a Maker Bot create several different items.  The Tech Boot Camp is a wonderful time for technical staff employed in public libraries to come together and receive training and learn of new technologies.   Watching as the 3-D printer was working on its latest creation, I’m sure I had the same look of admiration and wonder on my face as cavemen did when they first discovered fire.  It was love at first site.  That was a year ago and since that time I have periodically googled for articles and watched youtube videos to see latest advances with this technology, and I am astounded to see how 3-D printing has expanded.
For instance, the use of 3-D printers can be seen in art, fashion, jewelry, food, education, automotive, housing (yes, housing), by NASA in space in the medical field by creation of prosthetics, and yes, even human organs!  My main reason for mentioning the expanding territory of 3-D printing is because there are many people who question the use of creating Maker Spaces or the importance of 3-D printing in their schools or libraries—what can our students or patrons gain by the use of these tools?  I admit, when asked a similar question by a library manager I floundered for an answer myself.  I was thinking, “this is such a wonderful tool with endless capabilities and it would be a great opportunity to share with our community.”  While this was true, we have to keep costs and maintenance in mind— and the main question remains how does this benefit our community?  Libraries have long been known for providing more than just the books we love to read–libraries also provide the latest technology such as computers, printers, internet access and wi-fi as well as access to educational books that an individual may not be able to afford and so much more.  I believe that 3-D printing is just the latest form of technology and as leaders in the community we should try to keep up-to-date with current practices.  While many reasons are given concerning the benefits of this new technology, here are a few—it could open doors for members of our community, the use of the technology could inspire someone to further their education or become an entrepreneur, we would certainly attract new patrons through curiosity who would then have a chance to explore all the library has to offer, community collaboration through printing projects with our youth or local groups such as the girl scouts/boy scouts, promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education through programs or even change someone’s life as in this article from the Times Free Press in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  One of our branches has decided to take the plunge and purchase, and will soon receive a 3-D printer.  I am excited to see how it transforms not only the library but their community as we proceed on this journey together.  I know this will be a great step forward for all involved and I hope it inspires others.  The possibilities are limitless!