Column Description: Using a format similar to that of a diary entry, this column will discuss thoughts and musing related to working in a small public library.

Dear Library,
When I first wrote to you about a year ago, we were in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. A lot has changed, but a lot has also stayed the same. While we were back to work for a good percentage of that time, we were also getting used to doing things very differently during those hours.

We arranged seating that would provide for social distancing standards, asked visitors to wear masks while in the building, and of course provided lots and lots of hand sanitizer. For a brief moment, in the summer of 2021, after vaccines had become widely available, we had lowered our guard and welcomed patrons back to our buildings without enforcing a lot of those pesky rules mentioned above. It almost looked normal again as we opened our doors for extended hours, stopped quarantining items, and allowed patrons to use computers for longer than 30 minutes maximum. We dispensed with time limits on their visits and suspended curbside pick-up hoping to encourage patrons to “come on in and stay awhile.”

And then Omicron came barging in through our open doors and made us feel like we were back at the starting gate all over again. None of our good intentions and efforts to be safe really worked to help patrons transition back to our lovely buildings filled with friendly faces, beautiful books, and fun programs. We’ve become tired just like our health care and essential worker friends and compatriots. We’ve decided that the future is really only a 24 hour period of time and to plan for days beyond that is a kind of madness. Can we assume that all will be well again in the next month or two? Unfortunately, we can’t assume anything.

But the last thing, I think, that we should do, is lose hope.

The future has always been uncertain and yet we have always planned, scheduled, purchased for our collections, and built up a  universe of good things for our neighbors and friends to enjoy.

The library, as an institution, has historically stood for good if not great things. As much as patrons might stay out of our building, for now, we can assure them that we will continue to offer opportunities for learning, living, and enjoying themselves for years to come. And maybe, just maybe, we can also assure them that they will be safe while they are here.

Ida Weiss has been an Adult Fiction librarian at the Gold Coast Public Library in Glen Head, NY. for three years. But her overall experience working in libraries goes back decades. She first started working at her college library as an undergraduate student at Cornell University in the 1980’s and have subsequently worked in business and academic libraries throughout the years, as well.