Library adjusts its services during pandemic closure
"I never knew how much I relied on the library until now!" shared the library patron I was chatting with recently on the phone. He was parked outside our building, accessing our 24/7 Wi-Fi connection to download audiobooks. before heading home where internet connection is not reliable. He called to inquire when the library would reopen our building to the public, as he was looking forward to again browsing our collection and using our public computer stations.
I've taken several phone calls of this nature in the past months, talking through frustration, anger and sadness about how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting library use. For some, it's difficult to see grocery stores and retail businesses remain open while the library is in a curbside and virtual services-only model.
I certainly commiserate with these folks – myself and the rest of the Crook County Library staff would much rather be working in our full capacity, welcoming the hundreds of visitors we normally see each day. I am monitoring the state's two-week risk assessment metrics and look forward to the day when Crook County's case load drops to a consistently lower level to assure the health and safety of both library staff and our patrons.
Browsing the library shelves to find a great book, film, magazine or piece of music is a special joy in many of our lives. Enter our new Book Bundles service! Fill out a form on our website or give us a call to let us know about your reading preferences, and library staff who will select up to 15 items, bag them in a reusable library-branded tote bag, and have them ready for pickup at our Second Street curbside service door. We know Book Bundles can't replace the experience of browsing, but we would love to use our library expertise to connect you with favorite authors, read-alike titles, some new stories for kids' bedtimes, and maybe even find a surprising book you'd never normally pick up.
Providing access to the internet is a crucial role for our library; the digital divide is real in Crook County, and I understand it is a particular hardship to not be able to visit us for the variety of computing needs we usually see. Our parking lot Wi-Fi is a partial solution, for those who can utilize their own devices. Stay tuned in the upcoming months as we launch a loanable tech project that will give access to Wi-Fi hot spots, laptops and tablets.
It's these kinds of creative solutions that are giving library staff a chance to shine. Given that the stress of pandemic life is a difficult burden for all to bear, it takes a lot of work to rise above day-to-day operations to see the needs of our community and respond in new ways.
This winter, we launched our first-ever winter reading program, which drew nearly 300 participants who tracked their reading, participated in activities and challenges, and were rewarded with free books and other prizes. One great success of winter reading was our take-home activity kits, designed for all ages from preschoolers to adults. We continue to offer new kits every two weeks. Come on by and pick up kits for everyone at home via our curbside pickup door, located next to the book drop.
We are still ordering a wide variety of popular materials for our collection, from bestsellers on our "Hot Titles" shelf to new feature films, television shows, and great books for kids and teens. We offer weekly virtual storytimes hosted on our Facebook page, and you can even contact us to arrange for your printing, copying and faxing needs.
While we are in our "assistance from a distance" service model, my hope is to continue demonstrating to Crook County that their library is dedicated to meeting needs in any way we can. To that point, we are extending our curbside hours to Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., beginning in February; a welcome addition for those who can't make it over for a stop at the library during the work week.
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