May 21, 2022

ALA Publishes Report on Need to Develop Institutional Policies Regarding 3D Printing in Libraries

Here’s a new report (21 pages; PDF) released today bu ALA and written by Charlie Wapner, an information policy analyst in ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy.

From the American Library Association:

In a new report from the American Library Association (ALA), author Charlie Wapner encourages libraries, as leaders of the digital learning and 3D printing movement, to take a proactive role in developing institutional policies that address the social, technological and political complexities that result from the rise of 3D printing. “Progress in the Making: 3D Printing Policy Considerations through the Library Lens” is freely available (pdf).

“Given the many legal questions 3D printing gives rise to, libraries need to do more than provide their patrons with instruction in the basics of printer mechanics, maintenance, modeling and scanning,” writes Wapner. “It is in our best interest to think chiefly about what is practicable and consistent with the mission of libraries [in serving the public], and secondarily about what might eventually be held by Congress, regulatory agencies, the state legislatures or the courts to be outside the bounds of the law.”

“If library professionals familiarize themselves with the budding policy debates surrounding 3D printing, they can help shape the laws, regulations and corporate policies that coalesce around this technology in the coming years. One goal of our work around 3D printing is to make this possible,” said Alan S. Inouye, director of the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy.

The report also examines various intellectual freedom issues raised by 3D printing. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, offers guidance to library professionals seeking to craft a 3D printer acceptable use policy that accords with the fundamental library value of free expression.


Since there is little to no jurisprudence on 3D printing in the current legal environment, the report recommends that libraries begin establishing methodologies and regimes for 3D printing practices within their library institutions.

Direct to Full Text Paper (21 pages; PDF)

Of Possible Interest
New 33 Page White Paper Looks at Future of 3D Printing and the Consumer (July 24, 2014)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.