Public libraries are a pillar of many communities, and people of all races, ethnicities, genders, ages, abilities, sexual orientations, socio-economic backgrounds, (etc.) rely on them daily. They could be using the library for free educational and/or entertainment resources, internet access, technology help, a quiet study or meeting space, somewhere to get warm and dry, a safe public restroom, human connectedness ... and the list goes on and on. Public libraries are one of the only places you can go today where you're not expected to to buy something, and they're frequently referred to as "last bastion of democracy in America." So what happens when a global pandemic causes libraries to shut their doors?
- Libraries 3D printing PPE for first responders and medical professionals
- Providing resources to some of the most at-risk populations
- Digital programming including storytimes, nature scavenger hunts, escape rooms, and more!
According to a Wired article called COVID-19’s Impact on Libraries Goes Beyond Books,
"...libraries have also become much more forgiving about item return dates and library card expirations. Some libraries have started offering even more robust online offerings, from upping the allotment of streaming media rentals to hosting online reading sessions. On March 24, the Internet Archive announced it was creating a 'National Emergency Library' by suspending wait lists for the 1.4 million books in its digital lending library. The organization says the suspension will remain in place until June 30, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later."
We are living in unprecedented times. Essential employees like medical staff, grocery store employees, truckers, farmers (the list goes on!) have probably never been more overworked or more appreciated. Despite public libraries not being deemed as "essential services" during this pandemic, librarians and library workers across the country have been working remotely to continue to serve their communities.
Here in Wisconsin, public libraries will be able to resume curbside check-out services when abiding by certain health and safety guidelines beginning Friday, April 24th. But normal library operations, including returning library materials, attending in-person library programming, and browsing the shelves, are still a ways off. While library administrators (and everyone else!) figure out how to most safely and effectively resume normal operations, please know that if there's one thing that is "essential" for a public library, it's their community. It will always be that way. We can't wait to see you in the stacks again soon!