Lending Libraries: Expanding Access and Education to Healthy Housing Equipment and Encouraging Healthier Homes

In many areas across the United States, community members can access a range of equipment to help identify potential healthy housing issues such as elevated levels of radon, poor indoor air quality, moisture problems, and more at no cost to them. Through lending programs operated local public libraries, various state government agencies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and others, healthy housing equipment can be borrowed by individuals interested in learning more about the conditions inside their home. This equipment often includes but is not limited to radon detectors, air quality monitors, and moisture meters.

To learn about one fantastic example of a radon detector lending program, check out this NCHH blog featuring the University of North Dakota’s Radon Outreach and Research (ROAR) project developed in conjunction with the Grand Forks Public Library and with an initial mini-grant from NCHH’s Building Systems to Improve Indoor Air Quality initiative.

How They Work

Local public libraries lend out the equipment in much the same way as their other, traditional materials. Often, state government agencies partner financially and logistically with the public libraries to help obtain the equipment and keep it available for circulation leveraging state and/or federal funding sources such as HUD or EPA grants supporting healthy housing related activities. In addition, the EPA has several regional offices around the country that also distribute equipment, both within and separate from libraries, specifically air quality monitors. The EPA informs communities of the equipment’s availability and potential benefits through a variety of city meetings, events, and workshops.

Below, you’ll find advice from some successful lending libraries and a list of several loaning programs. You can use these tips to inform local discussions on how to create your own equipment lending program. This information is intended to serve as encouragement for present and future programs; it is not meant to be a comprehensive collection of examples but rather a helpful source of inspiration. If you have a great program in your area that could serve as motivation for others, contact us here.

Tips for Lending and Loaning Equipment

Determine what types of equipment would be beneficial to your community.

Home environment-related issues can vary by location and prevalence of specific local concerns. Find out what types of equipment would help your community monitor, measure, or detect these issues within their home.

  • Target the audience that the equipment will be loaned to.
  • Decide the locations where the equipment will be offered.
  • Understand what topics surrounding health and housing quality are a priority in your community.

Locate interested partners that will offer assistance and keep communication open.

Partners can be anyone who is willing to help and guide with the development and ongoing implementation of the program. They can be other experienced groups with programs of their own, academia, and/or government agencies at the state, local, and federal levels.

  • Cooperate with contacts to ensure quick delivery of equipment.
  • Source local, state, and federal funding opportunities.
  • Be open to partnering with other groups that have similar goals in different areas.

Promote the equipment using educational resources.

Educational outreach is essential when promoting healthy housing equipment. Hosting events and workshops centered around the equipment will attract patrons in need and those who are curious about healthy housing.

  • Understand how the equipment works to be able to teach the community how to properly use it.
  • Keep track of the amount of equipment available and the loaning periods.
  • Try not to run out of equipment too quickly by following the demand for the equipment.

Be prepared for technical issues and feedback.

Questions, comments, thoughts, and concerns are a normal part of building any program. Understand that problems may arise as well as different responses as a result of loaning healthy housing equipment. Be sure to test the equipment to ensure you are providing proper instructions. Anticipate technical issues and encourage follow-up with patrons frequently.

  • Make the equipment and materials easy to maintain.
  • Provide contact information for the program.
  • Find strategies to receive feedback using surveys and QR codes.

Selected Examples of Healthy Housing Lending Libraries and Loaning Programs

Public Library Examples

Nashville Library of Things (Nashville, Tennessee) 
The  Nashville Public Library of Things in Nashville, Tennessee provides radon detectors, thermal leak detectors, moisture meters, indoor air quality monitors, and infrared thermometers for library patrons to borrow. This loaning program originally began as a response to Nashville’s relatively high radon levels and has grown from there.

Library of Things (Concord, Massachusetts) 
At the Concord Free Public Library in Concord, Massachusetts, patrons can borrow thermal leak detectors from their Library of Things section. The Library of Things provides a variety of items, such as technology and tools, to the community and are designed to reduce cost and waste.

Georgia Public Library Service (Georgia)
The Georgia Public Library Service provides radon monitor kits for checkout at all library locations. Each kit comes with a QR code that leads patrons to a video on how to use them. The loaning began after a collaboration with the University of Georgia Radon Education program to increase access to radon testing.

Tools and Tech (Medina, Ohio) 
The Medina County District Library in Medina, Ohio, offers radon detectors and thermal leak detectors to borrow in their Tools and Tech Collection. Radon detectors are one of the most popular items at the library.

Government Agency Examples

Ohio Department of Health (Ohio) 
The HEPA Vacuum Loaner Program, available in several Ohio counties, allows residents to borrow HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) vacuum cleaners to assist in the removal of lead dust and the hazards associated with lead-based paint. Each loaned vacuum is accompanied by a DVD demonstrating the operation of the vacuum.

  • Contact: ODH Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program; for general information, call 614.466.1450.

Department of Environmental Conservation (Vermont)
Hand-held moisture meters are available for patrons to borrow for free at 63 public libraries throughout the state of Vermont. The moisture meters are used to assist with proper burning practices and help prevent poor air quality. Patrons can check the moisture content of firewood as wood burning is a common method of heating homes.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Resources

The EPA uses their Air Sensor Loan Programs to inform communities about their air quality. EPA has several regional offices across the country that provide resources for the programs. These programs include both indoor and outdoor air sensors based on location. More information from EPA’s website is listed below.

  • Educational Resources on Air Quality and Air Sensors
  • EPA Tools and Resources Webinar
  • Guide for Starting an Air Sensor Loan Program

U.S. EPA Air Sensor Loan Programs

Region 1 Air Sensor Loan Programs
Region 1’s eligible locations include Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and tribal nations throughout the states above. The following types of sensors are available for loan through this program:

  • PurpleAir PA-II-SD*– stationary sensor that measures fine particulate matter (PM2.5); for outdoor and indoor use; plug-in powered; data available locally on the micro SD card or connected to WiFi for private or public data streaming.
  • 2B Technologies Model 202 – Federal equivalent method (FEM) instrument designed to enable accurate and precise measurements of ozone, ranging from low ppb (precision of ~1.5 ppb) up to 250,000 ppb (0-250 ppm) based on the well-established technique of absorption of ultraviolet light at 254 nm. The 2B ozone monitor is easy to use, portable, and powered by 12-volt DC current. The monitor stores one-minute ozone data for up to 14 days without the need to manually download the data.

Contact: Madeline Isenberg, Founder; 617.918.1271

Region 2 Air Sensor Loan Programs
Region 2’s eligible locations include New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and area tribal nations. The following types of sensors are available for loan through this program:

  • PurpleAir PA-II-SD*: stationary sensor that measures fine particulate matter (PM2.5); for outdoor and indoor use; plug-in powered; data available locally on the micro SD card or connected to WiFi for private or public data streaming.
  • PurpleAir PA-I-Indoor*: stationary sensor that measures PM2.5; for indoor use; plug-in powered.

Region 8 Air Sensor Loan Programs
Region 8’s eligible locations include Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, and area tribal nations. The following types of sensors are available for loan through this program:

  • PurpleAir PA-II-SD*: stationary sensor that measures fine particulate matter (PM2.5); for outdoor and indoor use; plug-in powered; data available locally on the microSD card or connected to WiFi for private or public data streaming.
  • PocketLab: portable sensor that measures carbon monoxide (CO), ozone (O3), and PM2.5; for outdoor and indoor use; not waterproof; battery powered.
  • Aeroqual S-500: portable sensor that measures O3, PM2.5, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs); for outdoor and indoor use; not waterproof; battery powered.
  • Personal Ozone Monitor (POM): portable sensor that measures O3; for outdoor and indoor use; not waterproof; battery powered.
  • Thingy AQ: stationary sensor that measures CO, carbon dioxide (CO2), PM2.5, and VOCs; for outdoor and indoor use; adaptable for plug-in or solar power.
  • E-BAM: a near-federal equivalent method (FEM) instrument that measures PM2.5; for outdoor use; adaptable for plug-in or solar power.

Region 9 Air Sensor Loan Programs
Region 9’s eligible populations include library patrons in Los Angels and San Leandro, California. The following type of sensors is available for loan through this program:

  • AirBeam2*: portable sensor that measures fine particulate matter (PM2.5), temperature, and relative humidity; for outdoor and indoor use; battery powered; requires Bluetooth connection to a cell phone and AirCasting app (Android phone included).

Contact: Ryder Freed, Region 9 Office


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Latest page update: May 24, 2024.