How Geelong’s Libraries are Empowering Communities Through Access to 3D Printing

Much has been written about the changing face of libraries as technology provides fresh opportunities to broaden their learning and creative offerings. Geelong’s libraries are part of that push, embracing the latest technology to renew community interest and enthusiasm.

Libraries have long been at the forefront of making innovation and technology accessible to everyone. From the introduction of microfiche catalogues to audio books, computers and the internet, libraries have allowed us to expand our knowledge and skills.

Now we are able take the next step. Geelong Library and Heritage Centre (affectionately known as The Dome), Corio Library and Leopold Library all offer free 3D printing services and training.

Bringing new technology to neighbourhoods

These new services are particularly important in our suburban libraries as part of their role to support and empower neighbourhoods. Both Corio and Leopold libraries have experienced a growing interest in their makerspaces from people of all ages.

At Corio Library in Geelong’s north, where they have been using their Robo 3D printer since June 2018, staff and patrons quickly embraced the new tech. Monthly makerspace meetings are a permanent feature and staff are eager to show off their personalised 3D printed name tags.

Corio Branch Librarian Subha Simpson said the 3D printer had become a tool for teaching with many enthusiasts sharing what they learnt with their community.

“For many, it is the first time they’ve seen a 3D printer. It’s also about them seeing how 3D printing technology works and the connection to how a design on a computer can be created into an object through the 3D printer.”

“It also brings an understanding of what the world is like. That these types of things don’t just happen in the movies. They happen in your community. It’s introducing them to the reality of now.”

Changing the dynamic of libraries

It is a similar story at Geelong’s newest library in Leopold. Information Resources Librarian Suzanne Cronin said their Robo3D printer was also attracting people and changing their perception of libraries.

“They are coming to the library for the printer … all ages have shown an interest. In the first month after our opening (in December 2018), we had up to 30 people a day coming to see the printer.”

Every Friday at Leopold Library is now time for their 3D squad. It’s an initiative started by local children interested in designing and printing their own creations. These kids then introduced the technology to their parents and grandparents.

However, both libraries want the community to take the next important step and understand the printers belong to the public.

For Subha at Corio, she would love to see people realiese that the 3D printer is just another library resource: “We want them to feel comfortable coming in whenever they wish to get items 3D printed.”

It’s a view shared at Leopold where Suzanne wants people using their makerspace all the time: “It’s a slow process educating people that it is their printer, not ours.”

Creating a level playing field

Libraries are society’s great equalisers. They are available to anyone and everyone, no matter our age, background or abilities. And making 3D printers available at libraries is helping make tech accessible to all.

Subha: “It’s aspirational technology we can use today. It is about equity not equality.”

Suzanne: “The 3D printer makes the community feel they are part of something and feel privileged that it is here for them … it empowers people. They stand taller when they come away having made something.”

To discover more about Geelong Regional Libraries’ makerspaces and other tech events and meet-ups, visit their website.

Geelong Library 3D printing - Corio
Corio Branch Librarian Subha Simpson

Geelong Library 3D printing - Corio

Geelong Library 3D printing - Leopold
Leopold Library Information Resources Librarian Suzanne Cronin

Geelong Library 3D printing - Leopold