Technology Support Analyst Daniel Davis with one of the 3D Face Shields that the library has printed. 

The reopening of the Durham County Library Main branch—a sprawling, modern building off North Roxboro Street—has been highly-anticipated, ever since it closed for in November 2016. The grand reopening was supposed to take place in April. 

The pandemic, though, had other plans, and the building has yet to open to the public. 

“From my perspective it was like: What can we do to show the people of Durham that we understand that they’re upset that the library is not reopening [in April]?” Durham County Library public relations officer Stephanie Bonestell says. “There’s so much technology in this building that’s been paid for by taxpayer dollars, in terms of passing the bond to build the library. How can we use that technology to benefit the community?” 

One new technology that the Main Branch has on hand: 3D Printers. In the county library system at large, there’s previously been one 3D printer available; when the main branch is able to reopen, its two new maker spaces will feature a laser cutter and five 3D printers. The cutting-edge technology can create all kinds of things—here’s a a few items the library has printed before, for reference—which made Bonestell think: could printing face shields for the public be useful? 

She reached out to Durham County Emergency Management to ask if there was a need for protective equipment for first responders. 

“The response was yes, yes, yes,” Bonestell says. 

Since then, Bonestell and technology support analyst Daniel Davis have spent their days printing face shields. So far, they have printed 280 face shields that have been distributed directly to EMS. It’s an intensive effort. Davis says that it takes as long as eight hours just to make the headband that the shield is attached to; it also requires time and vigilance to maintain the equipment and keep it clean. 

Expanded technology programming with the MakerLab is one thing that visitors can look forward to, once the library reopens. The library also plans to launch a city-bus-sized “Tech Mobile” that will be able to take the technology and programming to low-access areas of Durham County. 

Elsewhere, Bonestell says that Durham County librarians have filled their hours with community work, even when they’re unable to physically work in the library. Some have helped staff non-clinical screenings at the downtown Health and Human Services building, while others have been working on phone banking for the 2020 census. 

“As community servants, which is how we look at ourselves,” she says, “We just want to be there for the community and support it in any way that we can.”

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