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3D Printing in the Academic Library

February 15, 2018
Caricature of the author

Building off of yesterday’s post on iteration, today we are talking about 3D printing.  Faculty in higher education and finding new and intriguing ways to use 3D printing and rapid prototyping for teaching and learning in a variety of disciplines.  What started in engineering, has moved into almost all departments and majors on campus including English.  Concepts of design thinking and using an iterative approach to projects can benefit all students and can be applied in the university environment to create experiential learning opportunities.  Even faculty in the arts have embraced 3D printing including some innovative use of clay as a print material for sculpture.

Libraries need to find the optimal role in enabling and facilitating universal access to the software, hardware, and information resources to support 3D printing.  In order to create a 3D printout, a computer model is needed first, a step often given little forethought.  These can be created in computer aided design (CAD) software, which can range greatly in cost and complexity.  Luckily there are also many free online tools for creating simple 3D models for most users.  Models can also be created through the use of a 3D scanner however any 3D scan requires quite a bit of post-processing in software to print successfully. As information specialists, librarians can start by collecting information on software, tutorials and websites for CAD, and sources for models that can be reused for free.

Hardware may be the most difficult aspect of 3D printing, because it involves money, space, and the development of staff expertise.  A best first step is to survey the environment to assess what 3D printing is already available to users paying attention to the following questions:

  1. What type of printer is available? (material it uses to print, quality, speed)
  2. How much does it cost? (free for certain users, paid by cash or budget lines)
  3. Who is allowed to use it? (only a certain major, only faculty or staff, certain times of year)

Mapping out what is available, can help with planning for remaining user needs while also helping to direct current questions to the right solution.  While the library may not be the home for 3D printing on campus, it can be the information center for all things 3D.

Once an assessment of user needs and current technology is finished, it is important to plan for the space and staff needs for 3D printing before investing in the hardware.  In the spirit of Rapid Prototyping it is not very expensive to get a low-quality printer, but even the simplest device is not low-maintenance.  Librarians and key stakeholders should identify who will have the ongoing skillset to fix the printer and to help users with failing print designs.  Access to the 3D printer can be direct by users, mediated by staff, or even submitted online. Building a supportive environment for 3D printing is an iterative process, and can benefit users and librarians working collaboratively to build the future library.

John Meier is a Science Librarian at the Physical and Mathematical Sciences Library in the Pennsylvania State University Libraries at University Park. His responsibilities include instruction, collection development, reference, and investigating methods of delivering library information and services. He the liaison librarian to the departments of Mathematics and Statistics and also the Patent and Trademark Resource Center librarian for Penn State. John holds an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh and MS in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. His current research interests lie in using innovative technology to help library users and leadership in academic libraries.


Libraries Adjust to New Chapter

February 14, 2018

Seton Hill Library Director, David H. Stanley, was interviewed last week for an article about the future of academic libraries, along with Jennifer Bates, president of the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, Kornelia Tancheva, Director of the University of Pittsburgh Library System, and Keith Webster, Dean of Libraries at Carnegie-Mellon University.   Check out this link to, the online version of the Tribune-Review:  Libraries adjust to new chapter

Iteration in Public Spaces

February 14, 2018

Definition of iteration:

1: the action or a process of iterating or repeating: such as

a : a procedure in which repetition of a sequence of operations yields results successively closer to a desired result

b : the repetition of a sequence of computer instructions a specified number of times or until a condition is met — compare recursion

2: one execution of a sequence of operations or instructions in iteration


·         the latest iteration of the operating system

3D printers give us an opportunity to exam intersectional librarianship and the concept of lifelong learning.  Public libraries are viewed as early literacy centers and places to read the New York Times bestsellers; however, they are also advocates for lifelong learning, which can be academic in nature.

3D printers allow anyone to take an idea, turn it into a file, and then print it out in reality.  At the first program where we encouraged patrons to create ornaments to 3D print for Christmas, I had an elementary school boy create a 3 x 3 inch city.  It failed to print the first time, but he came back and revised it and this time it printed a glorious blob.  Learning new skills involves a great degree of failure, and there are a limited number of places where people are allowed to fail.  Robert Rodriguez said that consistently failing better is what taught him to be a director.  Iteration is quintessential to the excelling process.

“The idea is speed.  We build a concept, test it, try it out, make mistakes, do corrections, and are always pushing to go even faster.” Rick DeVos, senior consulting engineer at GE FirstBuild

The fast turn-around that 3D printing enables allows patrons to draft an idea and iterate multiple times in the same day until they generate a working prototype.  Practical purposes include fixing dated appliances where replacement parts are hard to find, teaching basic mechanical principals and design, and creating functional and ornamental objects (, but 3D printing goes beyond the basic and has disrupted exclusive industries such as prosthetics.  Many public libraries use their 3D printers to make cheap and light-weight prosthetics for individuals who cannot afford the process (

“3D printing turns digital files into physical objects by building them up layer-by-layer…  It gives everyday consumers the power of manufacturing.”  Kyle Chayka

This is where academic learning intersects with public library patrons to create an environment of lifelong learning.  Patrons gain the opportunity to learn and master high level engineering but go beyond scholarly pursuits by empowering blue collar work.

“Even when they progress beyond the initial ‘wow’ factor of the infinite creative potential these devices provide, they discover additional layers to learn.” Brad Smith, Mount Paran Christian School


Symposium on Democracy

February 6, 2018

Washington & Jefferson College is holding its first Symposium on Democracy next week, February 12-16, 2018.   The events are free and open to the public, so please share with faculty, staff, or students at your institution who might be interested in attending.

Please find below a list of the displays the U. Grant Miller Library is contributing to the Symposium on Democracy.

The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America by Gary Nash
W&J Catalog | WorldCat 

Jeffersonian Legacies by Peter Onuf
W&J Catalog | WorldCat

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
W&J Catalog | WorldCat

American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph Ellis
W&J Catalog | WorldCat

American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic by Joseph Ellis
W&J Catalog | WorldCat

Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson by Gordon Wood
W&J Catalog | WorldCat

If you’re coming and want to visit the library as well, contact Samantha Martin Research & Collections Librarian, U. Grant Miller Library. Her phone number is (724) 503-1001 x3127. They would love to have visitors. She is also available to answer any additional questions you might have.

What Kind of “World” is a Library? part two: Thinking, Ek-sistence and letting a World World

February 5, 2018

“Thinking accomplishes the relation of being to the essence of the human being.” M. Heidegger, Letter on “Humanism” in Pathmarks (Cambridge, 1998) 239.

A library is not a static environment into which the user enters like an explorer imbued with a sense of entitlement to master whatever or whosoever is “discovered.” That mode of thinking is a response to the challenge of enframed existence which conceals as much as, if not more than, it reveals. It makes the library a place where resources including the librarians are simply a standing reserve “inventory to be ordered and conscripted” by tools that are ready-to-hand (See: Mark Blitz, “Understanding Heidegger on Technology,” The New Atlantis, Winter 2014, 68). Something electronic communication, data provision and digital technology all do very well in cyberspace, and the world of “our library” should not be a dehumanizing video game simulation. Futurists at library conferences pronounced a decade ago, libraries should not try to compete with Google because they will lose. “Our library” must not care to even try. Not because it is a fool’s errand, or folly for a library to be thought of differently, counter-culturally or even perhaps anarchically. It is because human interactions with ideas, histories, arts, sciences, cultures, technologies, other realities and other people dissolve the false dichotomy of a subject to objects relationship. A library ought to be a shared environment of “others” where this freely occurs. A library certainly can be a place for exploration and discovery. Stewardship of a world, however, means empowering each human being in it to realize all the “things” and everybody there, including themselves, are indigenous. This is significant for determining: “What kind of “world” is a library?”

“All ways of thinking, more or less perceptively, lead through language in a manner that is extraordinary.” M. Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays (Garland, 1977) 3.

Since world-forming our library must be real and not just a theoretical mental exercise, and administrators are often far too risk averse to shepherd an open and candid “blue-sky” discussion, librarians need to foment the dialogue about how our library admits the essence of the human being, i.e., ek-sistence. “World-forming” because human beings have a creative ek-sistence, within which each one dwells poetically. “Real” in the sense that we can inhabit ek-sistence not just fantasize about it. “Ek-sistence,” to use Heidegger’s neologism, because human beings do not merely exist. They are “destined to think” what it means ‘to be’ (Heidegger, Letter on Humanism, Pathmarks, 247). Libraries are relevant, not when they do reactive technology-chasing or even proactive agenda-setting, but when librarians cultivate thinking, provide paths for creative interactions, and make clearings for language. This last statement is offered as a step toward answering: “What kind of “world” is a library?”

All our heart’s courage is the
echoing response to the
first call of Being which
gathers our thinking into the
play of the world.

In thinking all things
become solitary and slow.

Patience nurtures magnanimity.

He who thinks greatly must
err greatly.

M. Heidegger, The Thinker as Poet, in Poetry, Language, Thought (Harper, 1971) 9.


Collaborating with Student Clubs: Games without Borders

February 4, 2018

Like many universities and colleges across the commonwealth, Penn State Brandywine has a large international student population. We also have a large population of students for whom English is a second (or third) language, though they were born in the United States. Our Multilingual Student Programs faculty and advisors host well-attended events, trips, and lunchtime talks, and the Multicultural Club is one of the most active student groups on campus. Naturally, the library wanted to be involved with these students and their enthusiastic presence at Brandywine.

One very easy way which we found to be connected to the group involves games. A few times a semester, the Multicultural Club hosts an International Game Break, where snacks are provided and students come to play games that are popular in countries outside the United States. Some examples of the tabletop games that the Multicultural Club purchased are Go, which originated in China around 5,500 years ago, Ludo, which is from India circa 3300 BC, Xiangqi, which many are familiar with as Chinese Checkers, Machi Koro, originally designed and released in Japan, and Carrom (aka Karrom), a shuffleboard game that is popular in Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. For our international and multilingual students, these games are often a piece of home that they can share with their new friends. For our U.S. students, once they experience them at an International Game Break event, they want to play again.

The library got involved very easily by barcoding and circulating these games, after discussing the process with the Multicultural Student Club. The club needed a place to house the games when not in use, we had shelf space; they wanted a process to let students borrow them for an afternoon or overnight, we had the means to make that happen. An easy partnership between the library and the Multilingual Student Programs coordinator began. The library now also displays the games and their history around midterms and finals week, as a stress-reduction suggested activity, and a collaboration between the Multicultural Student Club and library is in the works to purchase more games for student use.

While not all campuses have the kind of population that Brandywine does, any kind of collaboration between student groups and the library benefits students, the library, and the campus as a whole. For example, students now see the library as a place not only for computers and books, but also to meet their friends to borrow a game. The library has a more active role in promoting events for the Multicultural Club and Multilingual Student Programs. Our international students see the library as a welcoming place that embraces their culture, which in turn plays a small but important part in these students feeling comfortable at Brandywine. As Brandywine Vairo Library, and university libraries everywhere, strives towards equity, diversity, and internationalism, we hope to work more with our diverse population and student clubs to promote their events and activities. 


C&CS Upcoming Session: IF I APPLY: Updated CRAAP Test for Evaluating Sources

February 2, 2018

The Connect & Communicate Series presents

IF I APPLY: Updated CRAAP Test for Evaluating Sources

Presenters: Kat Phillips, Sabrina Thomas and Eryn Roles

February 16th, Friday, 1pm– on Zoom!

Register here!

Evaluating sources for credibility is the first step to healthy civic learning. Traditionally, systematic source evaluation remained focused on source content with the most notable example, the CRAAP Test. Kat Phillips, Sabrina Thomas and Eryn Roles have consistently recognized that twenty-first century source evaluation must begin reflectively. First, the researcher must take personal inventory on one’s emotions attached to the investigative topic. Often, the open internet is a place to find hyperpartisan information that does not correctly reflect fact. In this session, we will provide a new simple acronym to foster intellectual integrity during inquiry thinking. The IF I APPLY test is a fresh way to introduce students to source evaluation in order to encourage lifelong learning.

Join Kat, Eryn and Sabrina as they discuss their successes & next steps learned from this semester.

profile picture Kat Phillips

Kat Phillips

Kat Phillips is the Nursing & Allied Health Liaison Librarian at Penn State University.She works closely with both the College of Nursing and the Health & Policy Administration department faculty in curriculum development, information literacy standard integration for individual classes and assignments, and embedded librarian services for distance classes.  She is involved with both the Pennsylvania Library Association and the West Virginia Library association, serving on several committees between each, and is also active in other regional and national associations.




Sabrina Thomas

Sabrina Thomas is an instruction and research librarian for Marshall University. She is currently the library liaison for Art and Design, Communications, and Women’s Studies.  Sabrina teaches in multiple capacities from online eight week courses, embedded, and one-shot classes.  She is passionate about empowering students through teaching source evaluation and promoting digital citizenship. Currently, her research focuses on coordinating efforts on information literacy instruction in public libraries, K-12 schools and community groups in order to combat viral misinformation.



ERoles7Eryn Roles is a research and instruction librarian at Marshall University in Huntington,WV. Currently she is the library liaison for English and Appalachian Studies and serves as a mentor for students in their first years at MU. She also serves on many association committees including the steering committee for the Appalachian Studies Association and the membership committee for the West Virginia/Western Pennsylvania chapter of ACRL. She, along with Kat Phillips and Sabrina Thomas, co-founded the WV LIRT.



Remember, C&CS is an online gathering of librarians for us to connect about our projects. We have a interest in hearing from you! Please let us know if you have an idea for a program!

Links to the sessions will be sent out 48 hours before the scheduled time.