Library Service and a Pandemic

The world we are living in is not the same world for everyone else.  We have always known that Morgan County is not living the same way as New York or Los Angeles County (yes those cities are also the name of the county, with New York county being specific to the Manhattan area), but in the pandemic world these differences are even more evident.  Not only is a guy in Manhattan experiencing his day in a different way, so is a Johnson County guy, a Pettis County guy…, you get the idea.

If you have visited any restaurants that “lake people” frequent on their way through, you might have noticed a difference.  They wear their masks, or at least they do in Veracruz and Calgaro’s.  I know that our Wal-Mart and Dollar General require masks, but I sure see a lot of people not wearing them.  We are not living in the same world even within our own county.

Missouri opened up on June 16th, and, currently, according to the New York Times; 22 states are opened, 6 are reopening, 11 are paused, and 11 are reversing their phases of reopening. 

35 of the 167 public library districts in Missouri recently shared what their current status is.  19 have reduced hours, 6 are fully open with all services available, 4 are providing community room usage, 13 require masks.  132 districts did not share their information, some voiced that it was changing every day.  Compared to state openings, it seems somewhat similar in that pausing and reversing are becoming the current path, especially as we see numbers increasing. 

Steve Potter, the Director of Mid-Continent Library, shared a whitepaper created by Orangeboy to show the library community, attitudes, awareness and satisfaction of library customers from March 15-June 15, 2020, when nearly all libraries were closed (We opened on May 18th).   This “National Library Customer Tracking Survey”, helps bring our similarities back in line.  We are not living in the same worlds, but we are still the same people. 

The survey noted 10 trends during the closing of libraries.  Trends 1-4, all dealt with digital usage.  Digital usage is a growing trend, COVID accelerated it.  We currently have 136 eCard members, 80 of those were added since March 18th, when we closed.  Our OverDrive check out went from an average of 665 per month in 2019 to 817 in 2020 and Hoopla went from an average of 152 checkouts per month to a 441 average since COVID. 

Trends 5 and 6 dealt with communication with customers and customer feedback.  We manned the library throughout our whole closing, so we answered phone calls and questions, and used Facebook, our website, the newspaper and radio to keep our patrons aware of our status.  The survey showed 27% of respondents indicated a greater level of awareness of the library’s status during COVID.  Hmm, I don’t feel so similar with this, as we are still taking phone calls daily asking if we are open. 

Trend 8, “virtual programs have potential, but require more promotion and experimentation”, no kidding, we are working on it, 9, less new cardholders, well, unless you count eCards, and 10, collaboration is key for the library community.  Potter noted that “none of us had a course on managing during a global pandemic in library school,” yep, and I didn’t even go to library school so imagine how I have been doing. 

Library service has changed, I know there are still Missouri libraries that only offer curbside service, some require masks.  Yep, we are not all living in the same world, but we are still the same people. We can choose to empower ourselves by being informed.  We can be appreciative of what we have and I think the biggest jump is to be compliant and respect that, without a consistency of leadership we are going to feel more polarized than ever.     

Upcoming Events: 9/16 Story Time on the Lawn (weather permitting) at 10am, 9/17 OUR Story at 4pm on Facebook, 9/19 Saturday Story Time at 10:30 on Facebook, 9/21 Adult Craft at 6:30pm on Facebook