3D printers at Suffolk Cooperative Library System in Bellport, left, are making face shield parts for local hospitals, right. Courtesy photo.

Libraries across Suffolk County, including Riverhead Free Library, are employing their 3D printers to create face shields for local hospitals, which are facing a critical shortage of protective gear during the coronavirus outbreak.

Libraries have taken their existing 3D printers, which are usually on site for educational purposes, and transformed them into a county-wide “3D printing farm,” according to the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, which is leading the effort in conjunction with Stony Brook University. 

In just three days, the force of 3D printers went from three to 58. They are now producing about 200 printed items each day.

Every public library in Suffolk County has responded and contributed in some way, according to Roger Reyes, assistant directive of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System.

LIVE UPDATES: Coronavirus coverage, maps and cases by town.

Local libraries have a long history of providing assistance during national crises, from World War I to the Great Depression to Superstorm Sandy. 

“The library is happy to support the courageous health care workers who need the PPE to do their jobs safely,” said Kerrie McMullen-Smith, director of Riverhead Free Library, which is participating in the effort. 

“We’ve been asked many times, ‘Why does the Library have a 3D printer? What do you even do with it?’” said Kelly Harris, executive director of the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton. “The usual answer is that we print things people need, usually for students. Now, the answer can simply be: We use it to save lives.”

Local hospitals and medical facilities have struggled with a shortage of masks, face shields and other protective gear that is vital to protecting medical professionals treating patients with coronavirus.

Anyone interested in donating unused personal protective equipment, including ear-loop masks, N95 masks, gloves, gowns, can drop off the equipment at Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank, the Westhampton DPW Yard or the Commack DPW Yard.

Drop-off locations are open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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Katie Morosky
Katie, winner of the 2016 James Murphy Cub Reporter of the Year award from the L.I. Press Club, is a co-publisher of RiverheadLOCAL. A Riverhead native, she is a 2014 graduate of Stony Brook University. Email Katie