3D printing: replication or innovation @ your library?

Yesterday I sat down with a colleague who works at a public library where there is a Central Library construction project well underway. In her role as the Emerging Technologies Manager she’s attending both to current community needs and library resources and the steep planning toward features of the new facilities and services on the horizon. She’s been amassing and working with staff around 3D printing equipment, of course. However, unlike the “maker” model we’ve both heard discussed in a large number of library programming contexts, innovation rather than replication is the primary value community access to 3D printing will target here. Library value to attach to replication opportunity isn’t neglected. However, the focus in that vein is on intellectual property knowledge capacity building in both library staff and 3D printing members of the public, not how to make replicated consumables.

Promotion of the equipment targets the small business community for now (with expandion, of course, to other communities of interest coming). Prototype building for something new, rather than repeating what already is lines up well with the evolving nature of how the public library supports what the community wants to achieve, rather than suggesting that library–and 3D printer–use is the end in itself.

My colleague and I then turned to discussing a book (hey, we are librarieans) that Maria Popova had featured in this past weekend’s Brain Pickings newsletter. Carol S. Dweck’s 2007 Mindset(Ballantine) discusses how the examination of twenty years of research suggests to Dr. Dweck that humans seem to develop, from earliest childhood, along one of two mindsets toward identity maintenace: those with a fixed mindset seek to demonstrate personal mastery by repeating efforts at which they know they have succeeded, while those with a growth mindset seek the same sense of wellbeing by trying new, yet unachieved efforts. The paradigm of 3D printing put to use for the purpose of replication and the alternative of its use for innovation took us even further in our musings.

According to Dr. Dweck’s analysis, those with a growth mindset not only aren’t personally interested in replicating what they have done successfully, they also have great difficulty understanding that the replication mode actually does authentically concern others, those with the fixed mindset. Of course, those with the fixed mindset might have just as little apprehension of the authentic focus on innovation suggested by those with the growth mindset. What might you be able to do with the knowledge if you were to evaluate not only which mindset is yours (by predilection, remember, not consciously chosen) but also which one moves members of your leadership team and your staff? Could a way forward be found for those battles between the “we’ve always done it this way” contingent and the “oh, let’s try this” faction? Might just acknowledging that people do tend toward one mindset or the other, as a starting point, shed some light on how change management needs to be undertaken locally? How can we experience the same information about what different resource can “do,” if we don’t first understand how differently we may be defining “do”?

The new Central Library is now slated to open in November 2014. I plan to return to see it in all its glory, of course, but I plan on using the 3D printing resources then as well. I’m working on an innovation in bridge-building, a way to get bridge footers planted on both sides of the mindset alternative, the better to offer a way for the replicators and innovators to understand each others mindsets well enough to work with both in the evolving institution we call “library.”