We’re Opening!

Picture of red sculpture shaped like the handshape for "love" ASL
Sculpture in downtown Fenton – June 2020

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!

Moving Forward

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
  • Language
  • 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.

Showing Support

Showing support during the pandemic

I have some friends and acquaintances who work in the medical field in some capacity. Some of them are working in COVID19 wards and caring for desperately ill patients. There’s not much I can do for them, but I’m trying to show support. The t-shirt above is being sold by my favorite book-themed merchandise businesses, OutofPrint.com. If you’ve never looked through their stock, it’s work a look. From the web page:

100% of profits from this Mo Willems – Take Heart unisex ringer t-shirt will be donated to World Central Kitchen and their #CHEFSFORAMERICA relief effort. WCK is working across America to safely deliver fresh meals, put restaurants back to work, and feed frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

OutofPrint.com

Please consider supporting them, if you’re able. They’re all working really hard to keep us healthy and minimize deaths during this pandemic. It’s also important to know that run-of-the-mill accidents and illness haven’t stopped either. Our doctor’s, nurses, and all medical personnel are working hard to keep up with all the demand… and it’s exhausting work.

I’ve also been printing out ear-loop extenders to help medical staff. They’re flexible and easy to use for people who have to wear masks for long periods of time. There are a few other 3D printer projects that I’m looking at printing that can help people who are making cloth masks. The 3D printer/modeling community has been great about getting these things out and giving tips for successful printing.

Tomorrow is game night with the Gang. We’re going to do it via Google Meet with a pretty good sized group of people. We’re going to chat a bit, catch up, and then play some online games together. It’s been a good time and I’m so grateful for this chance to support my friends and be supported with their smiles and laughter. It’s made a big difference to my mental health.

I think the best way to support our medical personnel and our community is to respect the Stay Home, Stay Safe order. Moving forward, we need to be better about wearing masks, hand hygiene, covering our sneezes and coughs, and just staying home when we’re sick. This pandemic won’t be over tomorrow, but we can certainly shorten its duration together if we act appropriately.

Life with COVID19

Found in my neighborhood

I joke with people who are stuck at home during this time that as an introvert, I’ve been training for this my entire life, but it’s starting to get much tougher for me as the isolation gets longer.

In an attempt to to lift my spirits, I decided to document positive things I saw when outside for exercise. Here a few from around my neighborhood.

This helped for a little bit. The sunshine we got a peek of lately also bolstered my usual optimism, but it wasn’t too long before things started sliding back downhill. Then I got a notice that a package was being delivered, but it was coming from Ohio; I couldn’t recall ordering anything from Ohio. It turned out to be a care package from some friends.

“Wash Your Hands” and “Don’t Touch Your Face” cookies!


This act of kindness really made my day. What a great idea! I decided to pay it forward and do something like this for another friend.

What Helps

Here are some things I’ve found helpful for dealing with the isolation:

  • Video/audio calls with family
  • Regular check-ins with friends
  • Online collaborative gaming with coworkers and friends
  • Reading and listening to podcasts
  • Using resources to help (like a 3D printer)
  • I am learning new recipes and improving my #husbandmaterial rating 😎
  • Talking out loud to my cat. Sounds silly, but she’s a decent listener.
Sometimes I interrupt her naps to talk.

There was a great article that was talked about the techniques used by astronauts to deal with isolation. I’ve been doing my best to follow their advice.

  • Keeping my mind active
  • Keeping healthy with exercise and good diet
  • I make sure to get outside whenever I can

I’m learning a lot about video conferencing technology and doing my research on the virus from reputable sources. I’m also attending video conferences for work which were surprisingly helpful and left me feeling more connected and focused.

I’ll keep this up as long as it takes. One person’s actions can make a difference in containing the spread of this virus. Stay at home, stay safe, and stay connected. We’ll get through this.