Northern Arizona University: Cline Library Opens MakerLab With First MakerBot Innovation Center in the Western US


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download-21You may have noticed your public libraries changing significantly of late. There might be a few less books on the shelves and a greater focus on programs and expansive exhibits, as I’ve noticed at our main library—and quite impressively so—but it’s very likely too that this might be where you or family members have seen their first 3D printer. Just as many were wondering what the future of the book, and consequently the library, are, we’re seeing some surprises as labs spring up with makers of all ages getting in on the creative action that offers so many benefits, along with fitting right into STEM education.

We’ve reported on many different library 3D printing programs, from wide-ranging 3D printing contests to helpful classes, but some of the most amazing real-life innovations have sprung from MakerBot Innovation Centers, in place around the US from the University of Maryland to Central Michigan University, and even beyond at learning institutions such as Italy’s Università Cattaneo. Those are just a few examples, however, and now a new one has been set up within the MakerLab at Northern Arizona University’s Cline Library to serve students, staff, and faculty for NAU as well as nearby Coconino Community College and the regional community.

Launched on August 29th, the MakerLab will allow for 3D design, 3D scanning and printing, and also offers electronic toolkits for all of the students and staff. The MakerBot Innovation Center housed here is making history as the first in the Western United States, expanding opportunities for access to the technology along with encouraging its use on campus and promoting the entrepreneurial spirit through creativity. The MakerLab so far is comprised of the following:

  • 20 MakerBot 3D printers including two large-format MakerBot Z18 3D printers
  • 3D scanners
  • Arduino Raspberry Pi electronic prototyping tools
  • Additional components such as LCD screens, sensors, and more

arduinoWith the electronic toolkits available, it’s hoped that makers will be encouraged to build electronics such as those with sensing devices, robotics, wearables, and even electronic art.

“University libraries democratize innovation, design, and prototyping by providing spaces, tools, and technology that encourages interdisciplinary problem-solving, design thinking and creativity,” said Cynthia Childrey, Dean and University Librarian. “Public and university libraries came into being to provide for the sharing of resources—first books, of course, but increasingly equipment, technology, expertise, collaboration space, and support.”

“Cline Library’s MakerLab is unique among university maker facilities in that it is also open to the public, encouraging community and university connections.  We are excited to engage with students, faculty, and the community in the MakerLab and share the resulting developments.”

Users are encouraged to:

  • Explore 3D modeling and design their own 3D objects
  • Print 3D objects whether they’ve designed them or downloaded files
  • 3D scan objects, learn to manipulate them with 3D modeling, and then 3D print them
  • Employ electronics for making and testing both digital devices as well as interactive objects
  • Create 3D printed art, to include electronics
  • Collaborate on cross-disciplinary projects


“The philosophy behind the MakerLab—and maker culture—is that anyone can solve a problem, anyone can be an inventor or artist,” said Janet Crum, Head of Library Technology Services for Cline Library.  “We hope the MakerLab will help people use their creativity in new and exciting ways to make their lives—and our community—better.”

Working throughout the summer, staff set up the MakerLab along with developing new programs, policies, and facilities. They had help from MakerBot, too, as representatives not only helped them to install the new technology but also gave instruction—very importantly—in how to use it.

“We’re excited to see what Northern Arizona University can do with the first MakerBot Innovation Center in the West,” said Wallace Patterson, MakerBot’s Global Director of Educational Enterprise Sales. “Their library is the perfect location to provide access and 3D design and printing literacy to all. It brings together the community and students by using MakerBot as the bridge – we’re eager to see all of the ground breaking collaborations and applications that come out of this space.”

Partial startup funding for this program came from the Arizona State Library, awarding a $69,415 Library Services and Technology Act grant to the Cline Library. (In 2016, the Arizona State Library received about $3.2 million under the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), which is administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.)  Faculty partners contributed ideas and inspiration, including David Van Ness, Lecturer, New Media, Sculpture and Foundations;  John Tester, Professor, Mechanical Engineering; and Jacob Dolence, Instructor, First Year Seminar and Director, Center for Design Thinking and Innovation. 


“Libraries are community centers that address diverse needs, including employment and economic development, civic engagement, and human services,” said Secretary of State Michele Reagan, whose office oversees the State Library. “It is an honor to assist libraries to transform to meet the needs of the community.”

A public open house event for the MakerLab is scheduled for Thursday, September 29 from 3-5 p.m. in the Cline Library. Discuss further in the Cline Library MakerLab forum over at


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