Libraries: Responding to the Pandemic

April 23, 2020

Library patrons are SOL, because the COVID-19 pandemic has closed their beloved knowledge repositories. What are book lovers, people in need of WiFi, and parents in need of story time supposed to do? Libraries have gone digital! Libraries have embraced digital services for decades, but during the pandemic they continue to serve their communities except totally in a digital space. Fast Company reports how in, “Closed Libraries Are Offering Parking Lot Wi-Fi, EBooks, And Zoom Story Time.”

It is commonly believed that libraries are an obsolete government service, but that is completely untrue. Libraries offer a plethora of free resources and services to communities that are otherwise unavailable. They offer free Internet access, entertainment, ways to assist people in job searches, and offer a diverse range of classes.

While libraries are physically closed, librarians have gotten creative. Parking lots, sidewalks, and even bookmobiles have been transformed into wifi hotspots for those lacking Internet access. Even though they might risk being Zoom bombed, libraries have also moved to Zoom for story time and other classes.

Libraries are also offering curbside pickup:

“Some libraries are offering curbside checkout or other ways to pick up books, though doing so in a safe and sanitary way can be a logistical challenge. The El Dorado County Library in California is planning to let patrons go online or call to request books—which are only available after they’ve sat in a holding area for seven days to help ensure they’re free from the virus. The books will be brought for pickup at area grocery stores, so people can retrieve them when they’re out buying food.”

We cannot forget ebook and free streaming services, these include Overdrive, Libby, Kanopy, and even Amazon. There is a learning curve for older patrons versus younger ones who are more tech savvy. Many librarians are acting as tech support during the shutdown.

Once the shutdown is over, patrons will slowly return while maintaining some social distance for a time. There are concerns over libraries’ budgets being cut during the impeding economic downturn, but libraries will get through it as they always to.

Whitney Grace, April 23, 2020

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