Libraries, Tech, & Public Health

Public libraries and public health have long been intertwined, with technology helping to facilitate the pairing. Let’s explore the past and present, as we chart a course for the future.

Spotlight on 3D Printing

The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic saw shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE). In some communities, library 3d printing capability was able to address this deficit. In New York, the Suffolk Cooperative Library System (SCLS) partnered with Stony Brook University’s iCreate Lab to manufacture face shields for medical workers at Stony Brook Hospital. At one point, more than 100 printers were located at SCLS, printing 250 headbands a day! Over the course of this partnership, 5,000 face shields were assembled and delivered to the hospital, helping meet a critical need.

As libraries returned to in-person service, 3d printing technology continued to be employed, providing patrons with “hands-free” door openers, face mask holders, and other solutions.

Library of Things

Many libraries offer a myriad of equipment, toys, tools, and gadgets, often referred to as a “library of things”. Health equipment continues to be a growing portion of these collections. Many Suffolk County Libraries have partnered with the American Heart Association to lend blood pressure monitors, along with accompanying logbooks and referral information/resources. At the North Scituate Public Library, their medical lending kits include pulse oximeters and infrared thermometers. With the continued development of health technologies, there will be new opportunities for libraries to expand their lending services.

Virtual Reality and Mental Health

Between the well-documented adverse effects of social media, and pandemic-related stress and isolation, teen mental health has been under duress. Enter virtual reality and libraries, with a spotlight on VRtality describes itself as

“an initiative funded in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, is an innovative program focused on supporting positive teen mental health through the co-design of a virtual reality experience. It is a customizable program that library staff can leverage to build real relationships with teens in their local community.”

The experiences that are designed serve two functions; the act of creation is a soothing experience, while the final product can be experienced by others, itself relieving stress.

Until Next Time!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! I plan on talking more about the role libraries can play in the health of their communities in a future follow-up, with an eye toward telehealth services. As always, if you’re looking for a speaker for your event feel free to reach out! I cover emerging technologies, artificial intelligence, staff training, library tech trends, tech on a budget, change management, and more! You can also view some of my past and upcoming events.

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