By Anne Knowles, Nevada Appeal

The Carson City Library is closed, but staff is busy behind the scenes trying to help during the coronavirus outbreak. A skeleton crew of library staff, working separately, is now using the library’s 3D printers and laser cutter to prototype personal protective equipment, or PPEs, that are in short supply. “We can’t solve it for the whole universe, but we sure can crank out a couple hundred of these,” said Tod Colegrove, library director.

They have designed and produced three types of face shields and are waiting on an order of plastic coming this week to produce a finished sample. “A lot of plastic has evaporated,” said Colegrove so the library ordered hard plastic binder covers from an office supplier, which can be used both to make the shields or by the library for binders. They then plan to present the three prototypes to the Fire Department and Sheriff’s Office to see if any would work to help protect the city’s first responders. “We’ll talk to the Senior Center, too, they’re handing out meals,” said Colegrove.

All PPE are being produced in the library following guidelines and safety protocols and will be delivered in sealed sterile containers with instructions on usage and maintenance. The library crew is also working on a plastic face mask with a hole in the center in which a piece of N95 face mask is inserted. The disposable masks are in short supply. Carson Tahoe Health, for example, has limited visitors to the Carson City hospital’s intensive care unit in order to conserve its supply of masks. Using the plastic masks, one N95 mask can be cut into six pieces to be inserted into a hard mask, stretching one disposable mask to six uses. The staff working on the PPEs includes Maria Klesta, creative learning manager, who oversees the maker space where the printers are used, and Vanna Bells, a librarian, as well as Colegrove.

The idea for the project came from both staff and the Board of Library Trustees. “We were separately seeing it happening around the country. And when the chair of the board got wind of it, she called me up to say ‘What about this? What can we do to help?’” said Colegrove. “We were on the same wave length.”

Anyone who has worked with the 3D printer at the library or owns one and wants to help can email