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Libraries recognized at House Energy and Commerce hearing on 3D printing

U.S. Capitol. Photo by Jonathon Colman via Flickr
U.S. Capitol. photo by Jonathon Colman via Flickr

Rep. Cardenas credits libraries as leaders of the maker movement

On Friday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade held a hearing exploring the implications of the rapid takeoff of 3D printing in this country and beyond. Witnesses included Alan Amling of UPS, Edward Herderick of General Electric, Ed Morris of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMI) – also known as America Makes – and Neal Orringer of 3D Systems.

The hearing touched on a myriad of topics, including the emerging field of bioprinting – the printing of human organs, the impact of 3D printing on the supply chain and the consequences of the rise of 3D printed prosthetics for the public, as well as the medical device industry. However, it didn’t start getting good for libraries until the issue of public access to 3D printing and its benefits to students and the workforce came to the fore. Rep. Yvette Clark (NY-9) raised the topic. Not long after, the Chairman handed the floor to Rep. Tony Cardenas (CA-29).

Rep. Cardenas led with a nod to libraries as leaders of the maker movement, followed by an inquiry into the witnesses’ commitment to supporting the learning, innovation and workforce development the library community facilitates through 3D printing:

We’ve noticed that in America’s libraries, we’ve had an increase of opportunities…Libraries are investing in 3D printers – now to the tune of over 400 libraries, at little-to-no cost to individuals going to the library. For me, this is a very important issue for making sure we [provide] access to as many minds, as many inquisitive folks [as possible], so that they can get turned on to how wonderful it is, and to the potential of getting a job in the industry. How committed is the industry to advancing that kind of effort?

Neal Orringer of 3D Systems responded by trumpeting his company’s recent partnership with the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) on the MakerLab Club initiative. “We need to do more like this (the MakerLab Club); it’s going to pay back dividends,” Orringer said.

Orringer also underscored the importance of helping libraries answer practical set-up and management questions so that they can connect their patrons to all of the benefits their 3D printing services have to offer. Ed Morris echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the need for organizations like his to ensure library professionals have the knowledge and the training they need to keep their 3D printers operating over the long-term. Rep. Cardenas concluded the thread on libraries by exhorting the industry leaders in attendance to view partnerships with libraries and other anchor institutions around 3D printing as “an investment in human capital.”

ALA is deeply grateful to Rep. Cardenas for his eloquent acknowledgement of the library community’s efforts to democratize and build skills through 3D printing technology. We hope that the discussion his questions sparked yields fruitful collaboration between libraries and 3D printing leaders across the public, private and non-profit sectors. For a video of Rep. Cardenas’ comments on libraries, click here. For a full video of the hearing, click here.

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Charlie Wapner

Charlie Wapner is an information policy analyst for the Washington Office.

One Comment

  1. You gotta love this – the government finally waking up to 3d printing

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