Lisa Kurt


Lisa Kurt is the engineering and emerging technologies librarian in the DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. DeLaMare recently became the first academic library to have a 3-D printer, which students and faculty can use to print 3-D objects—such as cell phone cases or models of engines—using open source designs.

How did you decide to bring this into the library?

It was quite a process. 3-D printers have been popular recently, especially with the MakerBot, but we wanted printers that could handle a lot of student use. We thought, “Wow, this is a game changer.” You could perceive it as a toy, but it’s so much more. The potential that 3-D printing brings for all kinds of fields of study—and even play too, which is totally valid and valuable—I think it’s really amazing. And to us, it’s really a no-brainer. It’s how we think. I kind of thought, why wouldn’t you want it? Why wouldn’t you want to get in early? There’s so much excitement, and the whole D.I.Y [do-it-yourself] movement across the country, and the whole maker movement in the country and internationally. To me, I just feel like we want to be part of it. And there is definitely a place at the table for libraries. Higher education is changing, learning is changing, and so we need to not just stay relevant, but be active and engaging users and students and whoever it is who is part of our community. So this is a really easy way to engage them because it immediately begins a conversation. They walk by, they see it, they stop, they turn around, and they start asking questions. Little kids get it, like immediately.

You can play with the items it prints. Kids seem to understand how cool that is.

Right. It is. It’s like the power of holding something that you’ve made in your hands, in whatever way—it doesn’t have to just be 3-D printing, but 3-D printing is a good way to achieve it. And so when you’re holding something in your hands that you’ve created, there’s something really powerful about that. Because immediately, you kind of go, “What else can I do?” or “How can I make this better?” And so it’s kind of a jumping off point for further exploration and learning, and that’s huge.

Do you envision 3-D printers in other libraries or creative spaces?

I suspect it won’t be long. It fits so well in the DeLaMare Library because we already serve people who are using this technology. A lot of engineers are already working in 3-D. They are using the software and building prototypes. Right now their method of printing has essentially been like sending it out and paying, and waiting, and getting it, and saying “Oh, that’s not quite right” or “That works.” This is nice, because it brings it in, and other people on campus can use it as well … like the art department. The art department had a MakerBot and was doing 3-D printing with some of its classes. It would be great to bring in more of the artists and the art department. I think that’s really powerful, getting the engineers together with the artists, getting the designers together with the journalism school, having all these different people together. I think learning has always been going toward that interdisciplinary way. I think working is going that way, too. There’s power in that, too, with different perspectives. … You may have your specialty, but it’s good to dabble in other things. It makes you a stronger person. It keeps you fresh.