Engaging with Hobbyists to Promote 3D Printing at Your Library!

The following article was adapted from the book Best Technologies for Public Libraries: Policies, Programs, and Services by Christopher DeCristofaro, James Hutter, and Nick Tanzi. Libraries Unlimited, January 2020 #BestTech4PublicLibraries

book cover of "Best Technologies for Public Libraries"A Perfect Match!

3D printing offers particular possibilities to hobbyists. You should actively seek to identify them within your community. Interested parties may include the following:

Tabletop RPG Gamers

Games like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and others utilize representative miniatures during gameplay. Additionally, some may also incorporate terrain, such as tiles and even three-dimensional structures. These game pieces are often very expensive. 3D printing offers an alternative, and more affordable option for patrons who either design their own pieces or download pre-existing files. Indeed, Thingiverse.com offers many free options, while one hobbyist on Shapeways.com, Miguel Zavala, has made a collection of three hundred models available for download!

Model Train Collectors

Online repositories are full of HO scale (1:87 real-life scale) model train sets. These include trains, carts, cargo, people, buildings, and even the tracks themselves!


Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines cosplay as “the practice of dressing up as a character from a work of fiction (such as a comic book, video game, or television show)”. By nature, many cosplayers take a do-it-yourself approach to their costumes, particularly when a costume isn’t commercially available. 3D printing offers an excellent option for masks, equipment, and other accessories. Interest naturally increases during local and national/international comic conventions.

Robotics Teams

Files for entire robots exist online. Additionally, designs covering chassis, battery enclosures, mounts for circuit boards, etc. are also available. Individuals may also wish to utilize your printers to create custom designs.

…outreach to small, niche groups can still result in a deep level of engagement and substantial use of the library’s equipment!

Making the Connection

Many of these groups have an active presence on Facebook or Meetup. Extend invitations to the library and provide relevant information to them. Within your building, display works which showcase a printer’s capabilities; a set of Dungeons & Dragons inspired miniatures or a model train. Pictures and videos of the process can similarly be shared with online communities. As individuals begin to use your 3D printer, they will often share information to others within the hobbyist community, increasing your printers’ reach. As such, outreach to small, niche groups can still result in a deep level of engagement and substantial use of the library’s equipment!

For more information on Best Technologies for Public Libraries: Policies, Programs, and Services, click here.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: