Some of the conversations about 3D printers in libraries seem to be more about a disagreement on what librarians do, and what services libraries provide, than on 3D printers. Should your library provide 3D printers? I’m not sure. I don’t work at your library. Each library is different. Each library serves a unique community. Hugh Rundle will say that 3D printers are a form of mission creep and will not save your library and R. David Lankes will say that Hugh is missing the point on 3D printers.
I agree that 3D printers won’t save your library, but they sure won’t kill it either. If a library is at the point of betting big on one object or service to save them, then that’s the wrong approach. Libraries serve communities and librarians need to continually participate in conversations with the community members, whether they are active library users or not. Moreover, librarians need to communicate with library boards, mayors, deans, and other various stakeholders so that arguments can be made and understood when budgets are revised.
The Berkeley Public Library has a branch dedicated to loaning hand and power tools. Our library at Hendrix College loans bicycles. These aren’t collections one visualizes when one thinks of a library, but they provide a service that’s in demand.
If part of the disagreement is terminology, then perhaps, to fit the needs of your community, you should focus on shared space. A library is not a hacker space. A library is not a writing center, nor is it a coffee shop. Yet, all of these services can exist under one roof. Does it matter if it’s all called a library or a community center? Is there greater benefit in sharing costs and serving communities or is it more important to defend the idea of a library?