Milner Library’s unofficial motto “Here to Help” is taking on new meaning during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to adjusting services and resources to be able to serve patrons virtually, Milner is helping make sure local health professionals and first responders have equipment needed to stay safe.

A large part of Digital Media Specialist Steve Koehler’s job involves fielding and completing campus 3D printing requests. His role in the Library Information Technology Services department as well as his personal interest in 3D printing connects him with folks across the world doing similar work.

“I have been 3D printing in and out of the library for a while now,” explained Koehler. “It is something I enjoy doing and learning more about. Because of this, I try to keep up to date on what is going on in regards to 3D printing, and makers in general.”

Koehler in printed face shield

Koehler trying on one of the face shields he made.

In mid-March, Koehler began to see in international news on how 3D printing was helping hospitals in Italy. When the pandemic started hitting closer to home, he found that folks were using 3D printing to make personal protective equipment in the form of face shields. With some help from YouTube, he located the files and materials necessary to create the shields, and got to work using his home 3D printer. In order to increase his output, Koehler was able to relocate one of Milner Library’s 3D printers to his home while the library is closed.

With the help of Library Information Technology Director Paul Unsbee who is coordinating campus-wide efforts, other areas on campus have joined in to help. “I think it’s great that Milner Library could play such a direct supporting role to the county,” said Unsbee. “In learning of the large supply shortage the EMA was facing, I reached out to departments across campus I knew also operated 3D printers in an attempt to expand our efforts and coordinate a unified response between Illinois State and the EMA. I am thankful and proud that my fellow Redbirds always collaborate and come together to overcome challenges and that pride has been reaffirmed many times over in recent months.”

To date, Library Information Technology Services staff have created more than 150 face shields. Each completed batch is dropped off to the McLean County Emergency Management Agency for dissemination among health care workers, first responders, and others working on the front lines of the pandemic in McLean County. ISU units combined efforts, including those of Milner and the College of Business, have produced 300 pieces of PPE with other campus units ready to join the effort if local needs increase.

Any campus units interested in helping create PPE for local responder should contact Paul Unsbee for more information. Any community members interested in helping create PPE for local use should contact the McLean County Emergency Management Agency directly. For additional information on 3D printing at Milner Library, visit