The current count for libraries which have 3D Printers is 250. That does not include 3D Pens, or other maker space resources which libraries have. As the technology becomes more affordable (along with the cost of supplies) this number is expected to increase dramatically.

It can be argued that when it comes to 3D printing, just like with any other new technology and services which libraries have introduced through the decades (photo copiers, CD/DVD lending, mp3 file downloads, licensing for movies for public display), library boards would need to address the same policy considerations: balance of intellectual freedom, fair use, and the rights of creators. Additionally, the same general policies: patron conduct, employee conduct and use of electronic resources, would apply.

However it is prudent to reexamine current policies to see if they need to be broadened in scope.

It is also prudent to make sure that procedures are designed, understood and followed by staff and patrons.

Library Boards, Directors and staff always need to be aware of trademark, patent, copyright laws, and to be mindful of impacts to local businesses and other stakeholders.

Policy considerations regarding 3D printing and similar technology at public libraries is a top focus for ALA, and will be an ongoing topic of discussion for LTA.

To help get the conversation started, please review the information referenced below . . .

ALA: 3D Printer Public Policy Issues

An excerpt from the ALA article referenced above:

“Given the many legal questions 3D printing gives rise to, libraries need to do more than provide their patrons with instruction in the basics of printer mechanics, maintenance, modeling and scanning,” writes Wapner. “It is in our best interest to think chiefly about what is practicable and consistent with the mission of libraries [in serving the public], and secondarily about what might eventually be held by Congress, regulatory agencies, the state legislatures or the courts to be outside the bounds of the law.”

The report also examines various intellectual freedom issues raised by 3D printing. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, offers guidance to library professionals seeking to craft a 3D printer acceptable use policy that accords with the fundamental library value of free expression.

“Intellectual freedom principles espoused in the Library Bill of Rights and ALA Code of Ethics naturally extend to those tools, technologies, and services that enable library users to create content, including 3D printers,” Stone said. “A written acceptable use policy for the 3D printer is a necessity if the library is to protect users’ intellectual freedom while addressing concerns about safety, access, liability, and illegal use of the 3D printer.”

Since there is little to no jurisprudence on 3D printing in the current legal environment, the report recommends that libraries begin establishing methodologies and regimes for 3D printing practices within their library institutions.

“If library professionals familiarize themselves with the budding policy debates surrounding 3D printing, they can help shape the laws, regulations and corporate policies that coalesce around this technology in the coming years. One goal of our work around 3D printing is to make this possible,” said Alan S. Inouye, director of the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy.

Other resources (and please do not forget to share your own policies with LTA, so they can be included in LTA’s Library Policy Database, and please view the policies which are already there):