3-D Printing in Libraries: Policies & Best Practices

Guidelines and resources for develloping library policies for 3-D printer resources


All libraries providing access to 3-D printers should adopt written policies governing the use of their 3-D printers. Such policies should:

  • identify those eligible to use the library's 3-D printer;
  • outline all rules and regulations concerning user access, fees, and training requirements;
  • bar use of the library's 3-D printing facilities for illegal activities;
  • include a statement informing users that all other library policies apply when using the library's 3-D printer or printing services, including policies addressing user behavior, acceptable use, cybersecurity, copyright, intellectual freedom and user privacy.

Policies can also include a specific provision requiring users to comply with all applicable laws, including laws governing copyright and the manufacture of regulated or illegal items.

Though policies, by necessity, must address concerns about access, potential misuse, and liability, policies should also reflect the library's commitment to learning and the exploration of ideas. A mission statement or statement of purpose should encourage users to learn about new technologies, exercise their imaginations, and assure their freedom to create, and design new projects within the parameters imposed by the technology.

Listed below are resources created by 港澳台图库and its members that provide guidance on developing effective policies and best practices for managing makerspaces and 3-D printers in libraries. We have also included other publications that offer both general information about 3-D printing as well as information about policy development for 3-D printers.

ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom or ALA's can consult with individual libraries on policy development, depending on the questions or issues raised by the library.

August 2018 Update: Recently, the U.S. State Department entered into a settlement agreement that would have allowed Defense Distributed, a non-profit advocacy group, to post and make available downloadable instructions and templates for printing guns and gun parts on 3-D printers. On July 31, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik a temporary restraining order barring Defense Distributed from posting their files online. barring the online dissemination of files for printing plastic weapons. The injunction will remain in place until the state attorney generals' case is resolved. (Attorney generals from 19 states and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit to set aside the settlement agreement or to prevent Defense Distributed from posting their files online.)

Libraries should be aware that the settlement agreement allowing online distribution of the plans is not binding on libraries and does not confer a right to use those plans to create guns on library 3-D printers in violation of library policy or in violation of the applicable law regulating the manufacture or distribution of guns in the United States. This includes the .

These materials are not a legal opinion nor should they be regarded as legal advice. Readers should consult their own legal counsel for legal advice regarding their particular situation.

Resources for 3-D Printer Policy Development:

| 港澳台图库Office for Information Technology Policy (2015) (includes the sidebar "3D Printing, Intellectual Freedom and Library Values.") (2015)

| 港澳台图库Office for Information Technology Policy (2014)

| Bulletin of the Association for Information Science and Technology (2015)

|Bulletin of the Association for Information Science and Technology (2015)

| 港澳台图库Editions (2016)

| NPR (April 2015)

| TechSoup for Libraries (2014)

3-D Printers: General Information

, by Jason Griffey | Library Technology Reports

| 港澳台图库Office for Information Technology Policy (2016)

| 港澳台图库Office for Information Technology Policy (2015)

Sample 3-D Printing Policies: