It’s a busy and exciting time as we bring staff back and get ready for opening to the public again with new service offerings and programs. It’s not without its issues, but I’m feeling like we weathered this part of the storm pretty well.
I’ve gotten really good at moderating video calls and explaining to people how to mute and unmute themselves on their various devices. While this was not the most pleasant way to do it, our lockdown experience helped us reprioritize and reorient ourselves to a different form of service.
The whole work-from-home situation has been a mixed blessing. I find that I’m probably working MORE hours, but I also have a more flexible workload, so I can take breaks more frequently. That’s really make it easier for me to focus on a task, push through it, and then know I can go take a break and pay attention to my health for a while before diving into another project.
These are exciting times. I am choosing to see this period as an opportunity for growth and experimentation rather than keeping a negative perspective on everything. I’m even getting to help the League of Women Voters do voter education work so we have an better informed group of voters for the coming elections. Truly exciting times!
I’ve been attending some video conference meetings online with other librarians and library staff to have themed discussions about how we’re handling this current situation. Most recently, we discussed how we envision libraries and library services to evolve as the country reopens.
There were two big themes that came out of our discussions. Before moving forward, these themes emerged from the 200+ attendees, so the amount of agreement is pretty significant.
Removing Barriers to Access
We talked about what barriers we were likely to see when we reopen in addition to existing barriers that we may need to remove to help support our communities as they heal.
Some of the barriers to access are pretty obvious:
Charging for printing/faxing/copying
The building itself can be a barrier for those not able to travel
Library policies that restrict who gets a library card
Technology barriers – the databases we use to provide information for our patrons can be barriers to those without internet access
Accessibility of online programs
Figuring out how to remove some or all of these barriers is a tricky task. Some of them are definitely more difficult or expensive than others. At this point, however, we need to take a hard look at what we can and should do to help people rebuild once we’re open to the public again.
Libraries as Places to Reconnect
Libraries have always been important third places for people to socialize and just relax, explore, and entertain themselves. Our current situation has made that more difficult since we need to limit the number of people in the building (for social distancing) and restrict access to some resources in the short term to protect the health of our staff.
One of the most difficult parts of this shutdown has been not seeing our patrons. The staff have warm relationships with many of our staff who visit and we love to make sure they get the services they need to solve problems, educate themselves, and provide a mental break through consumption of our library materials. A big part of this re-connection period will be checking in on our community. The sad part I’m bracing myself for is when some of our patrons don’t come back because they didn’t survive the virus. There will be grieving. There will definitely be tears. Our staff will need to heal from this.
Reconnecting with our community at the library will be tricky from a public health perspective for a little while, but we’ll push through it. We want our patrons to know that they’ve been missed and we’re doing what we can to keep them safe.
I’m learning a lot about virtual programming and what is needed to support that kind of work, but it’s also important to note that humans need face-to-face interaction; it’s just not something we’ll be able to offer in the same way for a while.
For the first time ever, I’ve read 100 books in a year. This is big — I never thought I could read this much, but here we are at just over 100 books with two months left to go in the year. Curious what I’ve read? Check out my Goodreads profile.
The only reason I was able to get through this many books successfully is through the use of audio books. It’s infuriating how publishers are restricting library purchases of electronic versions of their books. Libraries are pushing back, but I wonder if it’ll be enough. I know I’ve discussed the issue with colleagues at work and I’m hoping the the boycott will work and create terms that are favorable for everyone. If you’ve not heard about the boycott, here’s a great editorial from Publisher’s Weekly that explains the situation.