What better place to start when speaking of the intersection of library services than with one of the biggest topics in the country at the moment: the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic? Since the time when the pandemic was declared and the cases were sadly skyrocketing all over the country in mid-March 2020, libraries had to get creative in ways to still allow patrons to utilize their resources. Programming librarians with full events calendars were suddenly forced to adapt whatever programs they could to an online format. Reference librarians had to work remotely to still provide the information and resources that patrons had grown to rely on. Circulation staff as well had to help sign up people for library cards remotely, utilize any online services the Library was offering, and still offer any kind of reader’s advisory they could.
What does all of this show? That just like all other fields, the Library world had to adapt to the changes brought on by the virus and stay resilient in the face of capacity restrictions, closures, preventative wear enforcement, and many more hurdles. This also goes to show that Library workers are a highly adaptable group, who took the challenge of an unprecedented time and not only rose the task but overcame the task completely. Librarians and support staff, as well as Library administration, took stock as to how many people still rely on their local library, even in this digital world we live in. They also realized that with the physical buildings closed and many people stuck under stay-at-home orders, it was extremely necessary to find ways to provide what the patrons were still looking for and make it accessible online. While the online materials in libraries have been growing steadily even pre-pandemic, suddenly with these new circumstances, the time was upon us, ready or not. There was a spark to purchase more e-books and e-audiobooks. Many libraries started scanning documents for those that would come in normally and browse.
As stated earlier, the programming librarians at libraries countrywide, from children to adults, would search for programming that could be done electronically. The other obstacle that came out of the pandemic was when libraries were reopening. Whether the library did curbside pickup only, book pickup by appointment, or opened the doors the moment their local area would allow, Library staff yet again had to make adjustments on how their circulation would happen. Normal was not going to be “normal” again for a while, and Libraries had to decide how to navigate this tricky path while still providing outstanding customer service.
So, what did the Covid-19 pandemic show, and what will it continue to show as we move on? A number of things have come from the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns that staff can utilize, going forward. Library staff is more prepared now than ever for any emergency and can handle any sudden changes for any reason much more efficiently. Just like every other business has had to do, libraries have been forced to adapt, and the resiliency of all library workers, from the custodians, the support staff, the librarians, and the administration is something to be admired.
All library staff should be proud that they took a sad, scary, and hard-to-navigate time and came together to provide their Library patrons with the customer service they had come to expect of their local Library, but in a way too was adjustable with the ever-changing circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mark Gervino is a passionate reader who made his love of reading and libraries into a career! Over a decade of library experience, and looking forward to many more years invested in literature, programming, and helping the library patron get the most out of their library experience.