How Libraries are Helping Communities Thrive During COVID-19?
The first true public library in the United States was founded by 1848 while the first lending library in the U.S. was founded in 1731 (ALA, 2020). Regardless of which of those two dates is most accurate, libraries across the United States have been around for a long time. During that time, the nation has experienced many challenges, changes, wars, recessions, and health crises.
Despite all of the events that have occurred during the past 200 years or so, libraries have not only survived, but thrived. I believe that the past is often the best indicator of the future. We are all learning to live in a CoVID-19 world and this time has brought us new uncertainties. The pandemic has also underscored the fact that we are resilient, and that each of us is even stronger when working together to create solutions.
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Libraries have done so much to make information, skills, resources, education, and social opportunities available to all. I am proud to be a librarian, and I love that libraries provide so many possibilities, and create so much hope for their communities. Across the nation, libraries are adapting responsibly and continuing to provide services and resources to all.
Here’s a look at some of the measures that public libraries are taking in order to continue to serve and provide for communities.
Online Programing and Resources
Even when many physical buildings are closed, libraries offer a wealth of resources and programs for children and adults. Libraries provide much more than just ebooks and access to databases. Whether you would like to attend a virtual storytime with your child, meet new friends during online book club meetings, or learn to improve your resume, your library’s website has something to offer. You may even enjoy tuning in for a streaming cooking class!
Visit your library’s website to learn more about entertainment, education, and personal enrichment opportunities. Many libraries have the option to have live, online chats with librarians, who can answer your questions right away.
Wireless Internet Access
Many libraries are still lending mobile hotspots to individuals who are in need of internet access at home. Typically, libraries are quarantining mobile hotspots and other devices and materials before lending them to guests. You can call your local library for details regarding the safety and sanitation procedures that have been implemented.
Some libraries have even created outdoor “Wi-Fi zones” for visitors. Library guests can visit the parking lot and connect to the library’s network in order to search for jobs, complete school assignments, access library resources, or just check their email messages.
Health Resources and Community Protection
Libraries have always been at the forefront of protecting community members’ rights and protecting freedom of information. Today, many libraries have taken on a different protective role for their communities. Librarians are acting as “disaster service workers” in contact-tracing operations, using 3-D printers to create masks for healthcare workers, and providing online updates about the virus to keep individuals safe and informed.
Many libraries are also providing new resources, services, and information to help individuals address their mental, as well as physical, health. Check out the “mental wellness and self-care help during the COVID-19 crisis” page, provided by the North Richland Hills Library of Texas.
Pick Up Options
Many libraries remain physically closed to the public, or have chosen to limit the number of patrons in the library building in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus. In order to continue to provide physical materials, libraries have begun offering “pick up” and “drop off” options to communities. These services allow individuals to return and check out materials without entering the library building.
Libraries are offering much more than books and DVDs for parking lot “pick up.” Local libraries also provide tools, games, and even fishing poles for checkout. Contact your library to find out about available supplies and resources.
Many libraries have increased the number of some resources, such as ebooks, in order to meet increased demand and provide for their communities. Libraries are also providing new services, and are even acting as “emergency care facilities for children of parents on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak and low-income families.” This particular service is an exemplar that shows how readily and creatively libraries adapt in order to continue their support for the public.
Perhaps now, more than ever, libraries are especially crucial to meeting certain community needs. Across the country, unemployed individuals rely on the help of libraries as they seek to re-enter the workforce. Parents and guardians turn to their libraries for homeschooling resources and educational children’s programming. People also depend upon their libraries for help understanding the news and differentiating fact from fiction.
While librarians continue to meaningfully serve their communities, they are also actively planning for the future. Currently, librarians are changing the physical spaces within libraries to accommodate guests more safely, developing new sanitation procedures, creating new rules for social distancing, and determining safe guest capacity numbers.
Because libraries exist to provide for, assist, and protect the public, many libraries are still cautious in terms of deciding upon and announcing re-opening dates for physical buildings. I personally believe that using caution and avoiding sweeping decisions about re-openings reflect responsible practices and concern for others. After all, libraries provide so much to so many individuals; it is important for us to prioritize the safety of our communities.
I am looking forward to watching as public libraries continue to evolve and to meet new challenges as they implement innovative solutions with sensitivity and sensibility.