3D Printing in Libraries: Putting Your Misprints to Work!

Let’s face it, even the most carefully maintained 3D printer will suffer misprints. In the past, I’ve muttered some choice words before throwing the offending object out. Happily, there’s another way! Enter the “3D Printing Swear Jar!”


Rather than depositing them directly in the garbage, I now collect these misprints and later put them to work demonstrating concepts like infill percentage and supports. I use them in 3D printing classes to conduct “autopsies” where we try to discover what went wrong–was it a poor design or did the printer get bumped?

Believe it or not, your patrons often find these partially finished or even mangled prints to be of interest. I’ve been asked by folks of all ages if they can take home a stray strand of filament–scoring a half printed octopus is a real prize! Before throwing anything out, simply put it in a bin near your 3D printer with a sign that says “take one.” If your printer isn’t located on the public floor, choose a high traffic area like your reference desk or circulation.

As a final option, your land of misfit prints can find a home in a makercraft. Maker programs are always starving for consumables–repurposing some ruined filament is a great way to save some money and maximize your investment in a 3D printer.


Using Augmented Reality To Improve Local History Collections

We’ve Made Local History Collections Accessible, Now Let’s Make Them Fun!

localhist copy

With the Pokemon GO craze in full swing, many libraries are looking to capitalize on the phenomenon. While there are ways for libraries to benefit directly (see my prior article here), there is also the potential to incorporate the underlying augmented reality technology to great effect!

Augmented reality, for those unfamiliar, is defined as a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. In the case of Pokemon GO, a game world is formed from your actual GPS data, and Pokemon are layered over your camera’s view. So just how could libraries use augmented reality to improve their local history collection?

Many libraries maintain digitized (and physical) copies of historical photos, documents, newspapers and other media. When digitized, this media is made accessible via the internet, and ideally, is placed on a website that is mobile responsive. As digitized media, there is only so much interactivity that takes place. With social media integration or by posting media directly on a library maintained Facebook page, we can start conversations, but it’s hardly the immersive experience that a local history collection could be. In short, we’ve made local history collections accessible–but we’ve hardly made them fun!

Now imagine your library publishes a local history app. Opening the app displays a GPS map with markers indicating a local history cache. Once you reach a cache, you could have an amazing multimedia experience. Looking through your mobile device’s camera, you view historical photos that are layered over the very location you stand at, perhaps answering the question “What was here before Starbucks?” Exploring further, you could access a description of the photo, or even listen to a snippet of oral history pertaining to the location! This makes your history collection an immersive experience rather than something more akin to research!

Returning to Pokemon, we must remember that its successful use of augmented reality is still attached to a thoroughly fun and addicting game. To more fully emulate its successful recipe, a library may wish to add elements of gamification. So what are some game elements we could add to our theoretical local history app?

A person might earn badges for visiting sites within your community, much like punching a passport. There could be trivia challenges. Using the app, people could provide their own written or spoken recollections of your caches, improving the depth and quality of your collection. You could even have time-limited challenges! For example, you may be able to unlock your town’s bicentennial parade only by visiting main street on the Fourth of July holiday weekend!

paradeAs the History Channel’s slogan reads, history is “Made Every Day”. A library that wishes to further democratize the process could allow patrons to upload their own media, provide metadata and tag it to their GPS location. With a smartphone, we have all become documentarians! Parades, natural disasters and other occurrences are history that we wish to document–why wait until they are old to do so? By making local history both accessible and fun, we can increase our collection’s engagement with the community, create a greater sense of ownership, boost use and improve its overall quality!

Pokémon Go and Public Libraries

Released on July 6th, Pokémon Go has already shot up the charts to become the #1 selling app on Google Play and the App Store. While all Pokémon video games generally share the same characteristics (collecting, training and battling the various creatures known as Pokémon), Pokémon Go has added augmented reality to the mix–and created some possibilities for libraries!

Utilizing your phone’s GPS, the Pokémon Go game world is based on players’ actual physical location. To move around the game world, they must travel in real life. As they travel, they encounter Pokémon to be captured, Pokéstops, which are caches of useful items and gyms, where they can battle their Pokémon against other players. So where do libraries come in?

As Meeting Places:

Many public places (libraries, malls, houses of worship) already appear on players’ maps as a Pokéstop or gym. This makes them a desirable locale for players to restock on supplies and meet socially to do battle. Gyms are especially desirable! If your library is either one–let folks know. Signage is a nice way of welcoming players, though anyone playing within the confines of the library will be alerted to the presence of a gym or Pokéstop. A social media blast is a good way of drawing in the more distant players.

As Hunting Grounds:

Players are actively working to collect new Pokémon and also gain experience by collecting ones they’ve already captured. If your library serves as a Pokéstop, is near one, or is willing to do some outreach, you can provide an inexpensive boost to players. By making a 99 cent in-app purchase of a “Lure Module” you can attract Pokémon to a Pokéstop for 30 minutes, benefiting all players. Advertising the use of a Lure Module in advance is sure to draw some interest from fans of the game. The person using the Lure Module is identified for to everyone at the stop–so make sure you’re using a username that gives your library some credit!

By drawing in both Pokémon and players, you’ve created a marketing opportunity, so be sure to use it! Talk up programs and collections that may be of interest: your collection of graphic novels, your Friday night game group, etc. When conducting this offsite, it’s an opportunity to do library card signup, Summer Reading club signup, or get your newsletter in some new hands!

For Social Media Engagement:

Pokémon are crawling, flying and running around your library. When someone locates them, they view the Pokémon through their phone’s camera. When this happens, they have the option to snap a photo. Encourage players to share their captures with your library’s Facebook or Twitter account. Have staff share their captures as well. Get creative–with some careful camerawork, you can position a Pokémon at the reference desk, on a book, “reading” a newsletter. This creates some fun, shareable content that may raise your cred among your teen patrons.