Branch Manager, La Jolla/Riford Library,
San Diego Public Library
MLIS, San Jose State University, 2007
“San Diego is the most biodiverse county in the contiguous states,” says Briley. “There are a lot of places in the United States that have more bugs,
but it’s the diversity of different species that’s unique here”
Photo by Melissa Au
Shaun Briley believes in science for the people. His adopted hometown of San Diego is a major biotechnology hub, home to more than 20 colleges and universities, three major hospitals, and numerous pharmaceutical companies and research facilities. Now, thanks to him, it also hosts the first biotech laboratory in a public library—the La Jolla/Riford Branch’s Bio Lab, which branch manager Briley brainstormed, organized, outfitted, and brought to life with the help of local biohackers and citizen scientists.
For all the region’s deep scientific knowledge, says Briley, much of it remains the exclusive domain of institutions and professionals. “We’re providing something that you can only otherwise get behind closed doors,” he says.
The Bio Lab’s workshops, demos, lectures, and open lab hours connect volunteer experts with the community—not only kids but learners of all ages. Under the guise of fun projects on forensic science or DNA sequencing, people are learning basic biology and how a laboratory works.
The Bio Lab is not only educating the next generation of scientists but helping ensure a bioliterate public. “To have a well-functioning democracy, you have to have an informed populace,” says former journalist Briley—especially when it comes to science. “How,” he wonders, “can you have an informed debate about it if you don’t understand it?”