Tag Archives: City Library of Cologne

The Age of the Makers; 3D Printing in the Public Library of Cologne

Cologne’s first publicly accessible 3D printer can be found in the central library at the Neu-markt. Twice a day it is demonstrated how the printer works and people can print out 3D print files which they bring along. The price depends on the weight of the object produced by the printer.

The movement of makers – an initiative on the internet – is a movement of people who want to create things themselves. The 3D printer is an important tool, as it allows people other than professionals to be active in the area of design. It looks rather simple – the MakerBot Replicator 2 almost reminds of an empty beer crate, but it has a lot to offer. It can be used to make virtual digital designs created at the computer into analogue tangible objects: e.g. screws or a spare part for the lawn-mower which is not produced any longer. Or the users might want to print out replicas of themselves – not as photos but as little figures for their children’s dollhouses. For printing a key ring pendant the printer needs about 15 minutes, if the objects are bigger/more complex it can take several hours. The ‘ink’ consists of a plastic filament (1.8 mm in diameter), the material is plastic – a biocompatible, residue-free com-postable thermoplast called PLA. MakerBot Industries operates the online community Thingi-verse, where users can upload files, document their designs and work jointly on open source hardware. Here they can also find design patterns for download (www.thingiverse.com).
In the public library of Cologne a ‚makerspace’ is being developed, a space which invites people to be active. The printer is just the beginning, it is planned to offer (in the course of this year) the possibility to compose and make music on the iPad, to digitize records or create podcasts. In the late 1990s the public library of Cologne was a trendsetter with its Me-dienbibliothek (Media Library) in the then newly established Mediapark. Now a new space is being developed which takes up the basic idea of that time, but takes account of current de-velopments in the media and in society. The motto for the Cologne makerspace is discover-ing, learning, being creative. The emphasis is on making something together – the makers and facilitators are the users, often young people, who train adults.

Crime fiction to go – the ‘Krimiautomat’ of the City Library of Cologne

Krimiautomat (3) (Large)


A large red crime fiction dispenser, the first of its kind in the city, catches the eye at the Neumarkt in Cologne, in an area below ground level where people are passing by on their way up to the tram stops or down to the underground station. It is here, in the much frequented Neumarkt-Passage (a mall), that the City Library of Cologne has set up a book dispensing machine which allows people to borrow books and return them on a 24/7 basis.

It was decided to present crime fiction here – a genre which is popular with many customers, is in keeping with the location (near the underground station) and lends itself to the use of a dispensing machine. Customers can choose from about 800 crime novels and thrillers (paperbacks); the collection is updated by adding attractive new publications on a weekly basis. The crime fiction dispensing machine contains

  • books that are being talked about (Sara Gran)
  • promising newcomers (Wiley Cash: Fürchtet Euch = German edition of A Land More Kind Than Home)
  • popular bestsellers (Vargas; Adler-Olsen, Don Winslow)
  • books recommended by literary critics (Krimi-Zeit-Bestenliste, Krimi-Couch, Alligator Papiere)
  • political thrillers (Olen Steinhauer: Die Spinne = German edition of An American Spy; Sergio Alvarez: 35 Tote )
  • novels featuring well-known investigators and locations (Veit Heinichen in Triest)

Customers can look for their favourite titles using the easy-to-use touch screen interface of the integrated online catalogue. They just need a membership card of the City Library, which they can get in the nearby central library.

As with the highly successful Minibib in the Stadtpark (the library in the park), with this service the City Library reaches out to people where they live. In our opinion the Krimiautomat with its central location is a highlight in the area leading to the underground and at the same time it is an ideal way of promoting the library free of charge in the most frequented shopping mall of the city.

The library succeeded in launching this unusual initiative as a sponsoring project with competent partner companies. The company mk Sorting Systems from Troisdorf has provided the crime fiction dispensing machine as a free loan for several years, the Kölner Verkehrsbetriebe (KVB), i.e. the Cologne public transport services, have provided the prominent location on their premises in the Neumarkt-Passage, the net provider NetCologne has integrated the new machine in the corporate network of the City Library.

By implementing this project, local companies have established a symbiotic relationship (in the best sense of the word) with the cultural partner Stadtbibliothek. In a joint effort they have ventured into the vibrant life of the Neumarkt-Passage and jointly they have committed themselves to promoting the cultural value of reading at an unusual, but very appropriate location. And perhaps the book dispenser even attracts the attention of people who are usually difficult to convince of the joy of reading. People are invited to stop and borrow something thrilling, which can be read at home or while travelling on the underground. The genre of crime fiction seems to be very appropriate to this special place – after all, some I action  is needed here to reach people.

The opening was accompanied by a reading hAeld in a special tram provided by the KVB: the film actor Mark Zak, known, among other things, for playing the ‘bad guy’ in the TV crime series Tatort, read from his new crime novel. Moving message displays at the tram stops were promoting the event and the library.

Even before the opening there was a great deal of media interest, the press conference and the ensuing media coverage met with overwhelming response – even the ZDF (a public TV channel) came to film the new Krimiautomat for the heute-Nachrichten. Like the publicly accessible 3D printer, which received a great deal of media coverage (there were more than 30 reports: by regional and national TV and radio stations, by online media and print media), this is another innovative service of the City Library of Cologne, which has been implemented together with sponsors and partners.