Air in library needs to improve


To the editor:

As a patron of the New York Public Library, I am concerned about the indoor air quality in its branches.

With three respiratory viruses — COVID-19, influenza, and RSV — actively circulating in New York City simultaneously, it is more important than ever to prioritize the health and safety of those who rely on the library as a resource.

I called the New York Public Library to ask if they use air filtration units, and was informed that they do not have them. The city should pay for indoor air filtration units to be installed in library branches in order to improve air quality and protect public health.

Indoor air quality has significant health impacts, particularly on vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, and those with respiratory or cardiovascular diseases.

Indoor air pollutants can include biological contaminants like bacteria, viruses and allergens, as well as chemical pollutants like tobacco smoke, household cleaning products, and chemicals from building materials.

Improved air filtration in public indoor spaces such as libraries would help reduce the concentration of these pollutants in the air and make the library a safer and healthier place for all visitors. Additionally, cleaner air would increase the accessibility of the library for children, the elderly, and individuals with certain health risk factors who may be more susceptible to the negative effects of poor air quality.

The New York Public Library has already implemented several COVID-19 precautions to ensure the health and safety of its patrons and staff, including socially distanced checkout procedures and mask recommendations. However, installing air filters in the library is another important step that can create a safer and healthier environment for all.

There are several reasons why installing air filters in the library is necessary.

Firstly, poor air quality can have negative health effects, particularly for those with respiratory issues. Installing air filters would help reduce the presence of pollutants in the air, and make the library a safer and healthier place for all visitors.

Secondly, air filters can also improve the overall comfort of the library environment.

By removing dust, pollen, and other particulates from the air, filters can reduce allergy symptoms and make the library a more pleasant place to be.

In addition to the health and comfort benefits, installing air filters is also an affordable option for improving air quality in the library. While some types of air filters may be more expensive than others, even basic air filters can significantly improve indoor air quality and are likely to be less costly than other options such as upgrading the ventilation system.

To ensure the effectiveness and affordability of this solution, the use of air filters could be piloted in a set of library branches before being phased into all branches.

This would allow for the opportunity to test different types of air filters and determine which are the most effective and cost-effective for the library system.

Finally, installing air filters in the New York Public Library is a small but meaningful way for the city to demonstrate its commitment to the health and well-being of library patrons and staff. It is time for the city to take this important step to improve the indoor air quality in libraries, and create a safer, healthier and more inclusive environment for all.

Isaac Michaels


The author is a practicing epidemiologist, a public health doctoral student, and a Riverdale resident