An op/ed piece in Make magazine by Phil Torrone talks about the many places around the world where you can stop in and learn how to make stuff. These Hackerspaces, Fab Labs, and other geeking-out lending libraries are replacing, well, lending libraries, to be blunt. "What if we were to convert just 1% or even 10% of the 9,000 US public libraries into Tech Shops?" he posits. "Libraries and librarians are underused for skill building. Libraries have the space, they have net connections, they're in great locations; why not evolve?"
I think he is on to something, but don't think the public libraries are the right venue. We need private business to step up to the task and putting 3D printers (our opening icon is showing one from HP as an example) and laser-driven cutting machines alongside the copiers and binders makes more sense to me. But maybe what we need now is for commercial enterprises that offer walk-in access to common office equipment (think Kinkos and Office Depot et al.) need to beef up their collection.
I remember when it wasn't all that long ago when having a color printer that you could connect to your computer and output 100 copies of your latest report wasn't all that common. But paper isn't the only thing that we need to output anymore, and the 3D printers produce prototypes and solid models that can be used in a variety of corporate situations.
Torrone's link at the top has some great analysis about the public library situation along with lots of links to the various tech spaces that abound around the world. What do you think?