Here we are, smack dab in the middle of the summer of 2020. And the world has changed.
In Library Land, it has been a dramatic transition that looked like libraries closing their doors overnight, back in March and April of this year. Staff were furloughed, or worked from home as library and municipal leadership tried to understand what was happening and form a plan for moving forward.
In the last couple weeks we’ve seen the first wave of libraries trying various forms of “re-opening.” Curbside pickup of books and materials is a popular option. Some are actually allowing people in the building, but limiting the number of people at a time, and requiring masks.
We’ve had dozens if not hundreds of conversations with librarians over the past 4 months, and no one is quite sure what library programs will look like in the future. How do you keep 8 year olds socially distanced? How to provide a safe physical space?
For the time being, it looks like we’re going to have to continue to wrestle with these questions as there are no easy answers.
COVID-19 has accented the ongoing conversation in Library Land about what a library really is, and how we serve our communities in the 21st century.
There’s an old quote from Mr. Library himself that says,
We love this quote because it gets at the heart of what libraries are supposed to be: a benefit to the people of its community.
But how do we benefit our communities in a post COVID-19 world?
One way is through e-resources.
E-resources are materials that are made available to patrons online. People can access them from home, school, the office, or on the go with an internet connection.
A library is more than the building it occupies. It’s the resources it provides to the community. And in the 21st century, providing resources online makes a lot of sense.
Especially in a post COVID-19 world. Access to buildings and physical materials may not look like it did in January of this year for some time to come, if ever. Building capacity may continue to be limited, social distancing requirements will continue to affect how people interact with the space, and we’re already seeing measures like disinfecting physical materials put in place.
In light of the extra precautions and extra efforts surrounding the physical nature of libraries, this is cultural moment for libraries to double down on digital resources.
This is a time for libraries to re-examine budgets and adjust in the direction that’s going to serve the most amount of people. That might include investing in a larger e-book catalogue, adding digital research tools, or investing in new exciting educational software.
As you re-examine your digital library, take a special look at what you’re offering the youth of your community. Do you have e-resources for the 2-8 year old range? What about the 8-18 year old? Or is there a gap that needs filled?
It’s been said in many industries that COVID-19 is accelerating what was already happening. Things that would have changed in 10-15 years changed overnight. It can be a bit disorienting, for sure, but we’ll close with that quote from Andrew Carnegie. This is the core value of all libraries:
A library outranks any other thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desertAndrew Carngegie