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Research Libraries across Nation Collaborate to Design and Distribute Personal Protective Equipment

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Members of the Association of Research Libraries are creating and donating personal protective equipment, training others to mass-produce 3D face shields, and expanding access to research and educational resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an effort to provide health care professionals with the supplies and support they need, research libraries—members of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL)—have produced and donated protective gear, including N95 respirators, 3D face shields, and gloves.

University of Maryland (UMD) University Libraries donated personal protective equipment from preservation and disaster planning kits and loaned out 3D printers to groups producing face masks and shields. The University of Washington University Libraries donated N95 respirators, gloves, and safety glasses to the UW Medicine Emergency Response Fund. The University of Utah Libraries, UCLA Library’s Lux Labs, and The University of Oklahoma University Libraries are all making face shields and masks with 3D printers to send to medical centers, hospitals, and clinics.

Texas Tech University Libraries joined forces with 28 collaborators as part of the West Texas 3D COVID-19 Relief Consortium to 3D print face shields for medical providers in the West Texas community. As of April 14, the Texas Tech Library Makerspace had contributed 300 of the nearly 800 total prints delivered to the consortium. The Library Makerspace is one of three contributors with the capability to produce 20 or more prints per day.

Kent State University Libraries participated in a 25-member team coordinated by the Kent State University’s Design Innovation Initiative to produce 2,000 3D printed face shields.

Temple University Libraries is using a unique process of 3D printing molds so that reusable materials can be made on a large scale. Staff are also offering to train other groups in this method.

“While this is a cross-university effort, the library had a unique role because of the transdisciplinary nature of our work. Staff from all areas of the university reached out to David Ross, our makerspace manager, and he assisted in facilitating the group formation,” said Sara Wilson, assistant director, outreach and communications, Temple University Libraries. “This highlights the library’s role as a place for cross-campus collaboration. It was David who suggested the unique process, an idea he got from a project he was working on with a faculty member before the pandemic began. What’s also interesting is that we’d just opened Charles Library this August, and now David is working alone in a building designed for gathering and collaborating.”

In mid-March, the Virginia Tech University Libraries joined a university-wide initiative to support healthcare workers in Southwest Virginia by creating personal protective equipment (PPE).

“Max Ofsa, 3D Design Studio manager, has been leading the University Libraries’ involvement with the initiative’s task force. Ofsa has specifically been working with 3D printing teams to produce PPE using the library’s 3D printers,” said Elise Monsour Puckett, communications and development coordinator for Virginia Tech University Libraries. “In March, the university task force divided into teams to carry out 10 projects in rapid science and production, working together to provide Southwest Virginia medical professionals with a first line of defense. The group is designing and creating ventilator components and personal protective equipment. The University Libraries is assisting with five of the ten projects and is proud to be helping print the masks.”

Randell Duggins, Sara Gonzalez, and Israel Herrera of the Marston Science Library, part of the George A. Smathers Libraries at the University of Florida, in coordination with an associate dean of the College of Engineering, are assisting with prototyping and producing PPE for Shands and North Florida Regional Medical Center. These items include testing swabs, face shields, masks, adapters for respirators, and surgical mask head straps.

Research library expertise and resources are continuing to aid communities and universities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through university-wide initiatives and collaborative efforts research libraries continue to be a valuable resource for creative solutions, guidance, and training.

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