Although book browsing inside any of ASU’s eight libraries is on indefinite hold, O’Donnell says that “for every book the ASU Library checks out, something like 150 journal articles, database searches and e-book views are recorded” in the library’s vast online collections. And he has encouraged students to explore the abundance of digital resources to which they have free access, including streaming services and subscriptions to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, more than 650 research databases and over 450 library guides.

Additionally, the library curated a collection of high quality resources, as part of ASU For You, for learners of all ages. The collection includes access to e-books, journals, multimedia, data sets, and educational and training materials.

“We’re truly open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year — pandemic or no pandemic,” O’Donnell said.

Personal protective equipment

While Hayden Library is quiet these days, the library’s 3D printers have been running nonstop for the last two weeks — thanks to Victor Surovec and the work he and his staff are undertaking, as part of ASU’s COVID-19 emergency response.

Surovec, program coordinator for the ASU Library Makerspace, is helping ASU produce hundreds, possibly thousands, of face masks and face shields, in critical short supply, for those working on the front lines of the pandemic.

“It’s a big ASU effort and I’m proud the Makerspace is part of it,” said Surovec, who lately has been the only human in a library space defined by collaboration. 

Socially distanced and sleep deprived, Surovec has been working around the clock to produce the essential 3D printed parts needed to construct face shields. 

“I’ve got seven 3D printers going constantly. I’m in production mode,” he said. “All the machines are different, requiring different software, so each machine means a new project. It’s time consuming and labor intensive, but we need to get these supplies out to the medical community.”

The library’s Conservation Lab, led by Suzy Morgan, has also donated N95 masks. Supplies are being delivered to the Biodesign Institute on the Tempe campus.

Computing power

Another resource the ASU Library has tapped during these unprecedented times are its many computers.

While the computers in Noble Library may appear unused, they are actually conducting important work — running simulations, as part of the Folding@Home program, which could help scientists understand how the virus proteins work to suppress the immune system and thus develop treatments.

By activating a cluster of volunteer computers, including those at Noble Library and other places around campus, scientists are able to speed up the simulation process considerably.

“This project typifies the extraordinary ways the library is retooling its resources in order to respond to the current crisis,” said Debra Hanken Kurtz, associate university librarian of Technology Services for the ASU Library.

Other powerful computing resources include a COVID-19 data web browsing tool developed by the ASU Library’s unit for Data Science and Analytics. The tool is aimed at helping researchers browse and process a vast collection of biomedical research related to COVID-19. The research is being collected and distributed by Kaggle, an online community of data scientists and machine learning practitioners. 

Kaggle challenged its online collaborators, including Michael Simeone, director of data science at the library, to develop data solutions that will help medical professionals keep up with the rapid acceleration of coronavirus literature.

“The development of the site began when Kaggle first announced the challenge,” Simeone said. “There were a number of questions that Kaggle posed that developers could help answer with an AI, but we thought it would also be helpful to put these documents directly in the hands of biological, medical and epidemiological researchers, enhanced by search and summarization capability.”

Simeone says the site uses a special search algorithm to help retrieve search terms, similar to what search engines use to help make sure results capture the spirit and not just the letters of the search. 

“It also uses a summarization routine that ranks sentences based on their information content and presents the ones, in order, that may be most informative,” he said. “Good information right now is absolutely crucial.”

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library