The W.E.B. Du Bois Library at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst on March 26 hosted the grand opening of its new MakerBot Innovation Center. Part of the library’s Digital Media Lab, the Innovation Center features 50 3D printers, several desktop 3D scanners, and MakerBot’s proprietary Innovation Center Management Platform, which links all 50 printers together, enabling print queuing and mass production of 3D prints. UMass Amherst is the first institution to offer such large-scale access to 3D printing within a library setting.
Connecticut’s Westport Public Library (WPL) officially launched its new Maker Space with a press conference this week. Contained within a large, open metal structure modeled after early airplane hangars, the new section of the library’s great hall features cutting edge tech gadgets such as a MakerBot 3D printer, and will host presentations and participatory workshops on topics ranging from robotics, to intellectual property rights for inventors, to arts and crafts. “It’s a national trend that you’re going to see sweeping the country, and you’re seeing here in one of the very first places ever,” said WPL director Maxine Bleiweis.
In the not-so-distant future, communities could view their local libraries as the place to go when they want to publish their own ebook, create and edit their latest song or video, or even design and print out plastic tools, toys, and prototypes. A growing number of libraries already offer their patrons tools such as recording equipment and sound and video editing software. Now, some are beginning to house 3D printers. In fact, many libraries have begun viewing such services as a core part of their mission.