Marvin: Year One

Marvin the Cube3 3D Printer

Marvin hard at work

As the first year of Marvin at the library comes to a close, I am a wee bit disappointed by the sparse use patrons have made of him. (In case you’re wondering here is where I got the name). So I thought I’d share a few thoughts on how you can avoid this if you happen to purchase a 3D Printer for your library. 

Prominent Placement

While Marvin is out on the floor, he’s a bit hidden. The only space we had for him was a table across from the self service hold shelves. It also happens to be blocked by the big printer patrons use. Said printer is one of the first things patrons see when they walk into the library so they seem to ignore what’s behind it. And even if they come in for their holds, they turn towards the shelves, thereby literally turning their backs on Marvin. I’m trying to see if it’s possible to put him next to the self check machine, which is next to the printer and therefore would be one of the first things patrons see upon entering the library.

So, I strongly suggest you put the printer somewhere patrons can’t help but notice it.


While the myth that a library is a quiet place is largely busted, there are limits. In an effort to entice patrons into using Marvin, I would occasionally print something. This did succeed in attracting attention to the semi-hidden dude. However, it also succeeded in annoying people. I wouldn’t actually sit and watch the object print (as I’ve stated in previous posts, it takes longer than you’d think) and so when people were annoyed by the whirring and clunking of the print plate and jets moving along the blueprint of the object, they complained to each other. I was surreptitiously clued into this by a regular who was on the receiving end of such a complaint. I wasn’t surprised by the complaint, I knew there was a chance it would be too loud for patrons (and this coming from someone who wears hearing-aids), but I was surprised that no one complained directly to a librarian.

So, even though I mention you should put the printer in a visible location, I strongly suggest you only print either during a prearranged time so patrons are warned  or in a study room.

Switch Focus

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the actual printing part of the process was the easy one. Aside from maintaining the machine, there’s not a whole lot to it. No, the complex part is designing objects. So not long after my first demo of Marvin, I started stressing this point every chance I got. I told them designing the files is where it’s at. There are plenty of CAD programs out there and not all of them cost something. The one I advocate for is It’s a free web-based program. While it can’t do some of the more advanced features like, say, Sketchup can, its really easy to get started. The Children’s Librarian even took the baton and scheduled some demos of her own. She’d point out Tinkercad to the kids but also show them in case they wanted to download a file in the stead of designing one. I’ve done the same thing at times. While this boosted use of the printer, only 1 in 10 files were actually originals.

So, I strong suggest that all programs on your 3D printer be focused around CAD not the printer itself.

Well, those are my top 3 takeaways. Hopefully Marvin: Year Two will be more successful. If you have a 3D Printer and have stories, please share!


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