I have lost count of the phone calls and emails I have received about a 3D printer for libraries. YES! 3D printers are phenomenal learning tools where students can practice invention literacy (Greaves, 2017), critical thinking, design thinking, and many literacies that are the basis of libraries such as digital, financial, health, etc.. However, without staff passion, training, a plan for maintenance and upkeep, as well as training for ALL staff most 3D printers become really expensive paper weights. Or worst, placed in a closet and never seen again.
Many of us, myself included, have occasionally had a case of what my sister refers to as "ooooooo shiny" moments. I have one, (or seven) "shiny" moments a day. How do we, as libraries with limited budgets, weed through the "shiny" to best spend our budgets? Dart boards? Crowdsourcing? A vote by staff or the community? They key to finding the next big thing for you library in my option is research, research, research. Don't just read online reviews, visit libraries that use/own the shiny, ask on large online forums and be honest. Be honest about what your library wants and why? And most of all how will it benefit your community. Remember, it' not about you but your community and how they will benefit or use it.
Here are questions I ask before I purchase a shiny
1. Will your community use it? Have they ever shown an interest in a shiny? If not what is your reason for the purchase?
- Is it to allow access to a shiny due to price tag or a learning curve (like a 3D printer)?
- Passion from a staff member or volunteer who sees an opportunity for knowledge creation and/or programming?
2. Who is the audience you are reaching?
- Children, adults, retirees, job seekers, etc.
- Educational, informational, job skills, etc.
3. Who will operate and maintain the shiny?
- Will they create how to's
- Will this become part of their job description?
- Will administration allow then time to lean, repair, and create PD for others interested in the shiny?
- If you answered no to this you should reevaluate why you have chosen to purchase a shiny.
- Don't just expect money from your local friends group or chamber, have a plan in place in order to have a successful new working shiny.
If you didn't have a well thought out answer to any of these questions you may need to rethink your purchase.
Graves, Colleen. "Invention Literacy Research – Part One." Create, Collaborate, Innovate. Colleen Graves, 19 Sept. 2016. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.