Garland County Library Director Adam Webb has called the library the second line in the response to the coronavirus pandemic, providing entertainment and enrichment to fill idle hours at home in the age of social distancing.
But the library is also providing tools for the front lines of the fight. While the building has been closed to the public since March, its MakerBot 3D printers have been whirring away making face shields for health care workers and first responders.
“We’ve been meaning to get some 3D printers for a number of years,” Webb said. “This year we had the money in the budget. This pandemic happened, and we said there’s no better time than now. We’ve been seeing news articles about libraries making face shields.”
The library began producing them as part of the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts’ effort to supply the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences but is now making shields for local use.
“We actually have 100 of them here,” County Judge Darryl Mahoney said. “We’re going to pass them out to people who would rather use those than a mask in an outside setting where they’re going to be around people. It’s amazing what they can do with a piece of equipment that would otherwise be sitting there useless. They’re definitely thinking outside the box.”
Webb said the machines would normally support the library’s STEM and coding programs, but they have been repurposed to help fill the gaps in a supply chain strained by hospitals, states and localities competing for sought after protective equipment. Webb said the library’s two printers can make 12 to 14 shields a day.
“It used to be very much a hobbyist group that used 3D printers, but you’re seeing more and more industries turn to using that technology for things like prototyping or printing out a model before they put it into production,” said Webb, whose facility for integrating technology into a library experience transformed by greater demand for remote access to culture, education and entertainment helped recommend him to the library’s board of directors for a promotion from assistant director to director late last year.
A face shield produced by one of the Garland County Library’s 3D printers sits next to materials used to make it. Alliance Rubber supplied the rubber bands. – Photo by Grace Brown of The Sentinel-Record
“The ones we’ve got are pretty slick. They have a heated chamber and dissolvable support material. You can print a nice and complicated 3D object and have the support material that holds it together while it’s printed dissolve away. So you end up with a nice print.”
Webb said 3D files provided by the machine’s manufacturer are uploaded to printers using the internet or a thumb drive.
“They have a web interface, or you just stick them on a USB and plug them into your machine,” he said. “You select your files, and they just go to town and start printing them.”
Digital delivery of materials and programming the library has been building out since its 2015 rebranding as the community’s connection point has kept patrons entertained during the pandemic, but curbside pickup of physical materials is available to supplement virtual story times, online tutorials and other digital content.
“Patrons can place things on hold either online or they can call us,” he said. “We still have staff coming in every day.”
Local on 05/03/2020