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3D Systems Partners with US Libraries & Museums to Give Free Access to 3D Printing
Posted by 3DP4E
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By Scott J Grunewald | 3D Printing Industry

As part of their new MakerLab Club, 3D Systems is collaborating with YALSA – the Young Adult Library Services Association – to bring 3D printers, 3D scanners and 3D design software into local libraries and museums. The program intends to expand the access of 3D printing technology to teenagers and local communities nationwide.

3D Systems’ MakerLab Club is a community of libraries and museums that have dedicated themselves to advancing digital literacy by devoting equipment, staff, and public access to building and participating in a ecosystem of hardware, education and training. Qualified libraries and museums simply need to register for the program with 3D Systems, and they will be considered as potential recipients of free equipment.

Libraries that are selected for the program can receive up to four Cube 3D Printers, as well as access to 3D printing curricula, educational materials, and educational internet content. They will also have access to discounts on 3D printing hardware and software, and will be entered into future contests to receive more free equipment.

The MakerLab Club was inspired by the White House Maker Faire and the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Build Initiative, which seeks to incorporate makerspaces and Maker-related programs into library services. Libraries have always been more than repositories for books; they’re really about creating equitable access to information, regardless of the format it is in. That’s why libraries offer access to newspaper and magazine archives, movies, music, videogames, and, of course, free access to the Internet.

We like to think of the Internet as ubiquitous at this point because it seems as though everyone uses it, but that is not the case, unfortunately. 60 million people do not use or have access to the Internet at home in the United States; that’s almost 20% of the country’s population. A lack of education and poverty are among the largest reasons for that gap in access. Currently all libraries offer Internet services and, as of 2012, 91% of all public libraries had full, dedicated computer labs. They remain the only place that many poor and elderly citizens can access the Internet even today. The Internet is almost a necessity in modern America, as most government functions, job applications and educational programs require some sort of Internet access in order to use them, and libraries willingly fill that gap for many communities.

3D Systems continues this egalitarian trend with the new technology of 3D printing. By creating a network of Makerspaces in libraries, the poor and underserved are again being granted use of technology that they normally would be unable to afford to access. For many patrons, the library will be the only place to gain exposure to 3D printers and 3D education. This is especially important to the youth, as they will be entering a job market that will increasingly require knowledge of this technology; so, access to it is vital.

If you represent a library or a museum that would like to join 3D Systems’ MakerLab Club, you simply need to apply for consideration no later than November 17th, 2014. And you can participate in next year’s Teen Tech Week, a library showcase that features all of the MakerLab Club program’s available digital resources and services. The event is taking place March 8th through the 14th. And this coming year’s theme? “Libraries are for Making __________.”.

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