At most libraries, a person can expect to borrow books, CDs or videos but never a device.
But in a yearlong pilot project, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has allowed its members to check out — literally and figuratively — the Speck air-quality monitor developed by the Carnegie Mellon University CREATE Lab that measures indoor air-particulate pollution levels.
In fact, the trial has been so successful that all 19 libraries soon will have Speck monitors available for checkout for three weeks, with a library-system inventory now totaling 120 monitors through support from three local foundations.
Pilot-project success also has inspired Airviz, the CMU spinoff that sells the device, to give free Specks to 100 libraries nationwide along with support material and training, with a 15 percent discount on additional monitors. CMU robotics professor Illah Nourbakhsh led Speck’s development.
The latest Speck 2.0 version retails for $199 with the original model now reduced to $149, said Sara Longo, Airviz operations manager, with online sales strong enough to allow Airviz to provide the free monitors. “We’re not a company that just wants to sell a lot of devices,” she said. “We want to empower everyone and reach people not able to afford them.”
Airviz also is offering a free Speck to one member and air-quality enthusiast at each library who agrees to help train others to use the devices and better understand pollution, Ms. Longo said.
Toby Greenwalt, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s director of digital strategy and technology integration, said people throughout the region — which historically has had elevated particulate-matter (PM2.5) levels from industry — have had many questions about pollution levels. The Speck project “provides a real opportunity to use these devices to provide context where people live,” he said.
Experts said it is important to get a baseline reading of a home’s indoor particulate level, and note that various household activities — such as cooking and sweeping — can raise those levels. High baseline readings could be reduced with the use of air filtration systems.
The pilot project began with six monitors at the Squirrel Hill Library with high demand leading to up to 15 more. But library shelves still remained empty, prompting library officials to provide all 19 libraries with Speck monitors, which are now available on reserve.
“We still are seeing quite a number of empty shelves,” Mr. Greenwalt said. “The results have been very positive. It’s been a really successful partnership.”
David Templeton: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1578. Information about Airviz’s library program is available at specksensor.com/libraries/apply.