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How Libraries Have Met (And Exceeded) the Challenges of 2020

It’s starting to feel like a tale as old as time; when a crisis hits, libraries find innovative ways to meet and exceed their community needs. Whether it be natural disasters, infringements on civil liberties, razor thin budgets, or a global pandemic; libraries find a way to be there and be dependable when it seems like not much else is.

Increasing Access to Resources

When libraries across the country shut their doors in March, no one had any way of knowing the extent of the changes that were about to happen. With people at home more than ever, libraries responded to the demand for entertainment and enrichment. McKinney Public Library’s bookmobile (lovingly named Olive) hit the streets to bring materials and services to patrons far and wide.

Libraries like the Pasco County Library System quickly implemented a no-contact curbside service for patrons to pick up books, tablets, video games, and even seeds from their Seed Library. Libraries using the Koha OPAC were able to install the Curbside Plugin so that patrons could conveniently schedule their pickups.

Being a Dependable Source of Information

No matter what is going on in the world, libraries are known for being a dependable source of information for their communities. With constant daily developments and changes, 2020 has proven to be a year of information overwhelm. Plumas County Library put together a curated list of community resources for free meal distribution, health and safety resources, unemployment assistance, and virtual learning resources.

As much as libraries are spreading information, they are also fighting misinformation. Libraries are creating research guides and displays highlighting ways to check sources, spot “fake news”, and find legitimate resources to obtain information.

Re-imagining Programming

For many public libraries, summer is the busiest time of year. Kids are out of school, parents are looking for activities for their children, and everyone is trying to avoid the dreaded “summer slide”. Summer 2020 was no different, as libraries around the country re-imagined what programming could look like. Uintah County Public Library in Utah used the library’s lawn to host a Social Distanced Story Walk, where pieces of the story were placed around the park for families to discover. Many other systems jumped on Zoom, Facebook Live, and YouTube to offer programs like virtual storytimes and book clubs.

Standing Up For Social Justice

Libraries are continuing the conversations being had from kitchen tables to boardrooms about the state of racial equity in the United States and around the world. Libraries are using their spaces and their platforms to amplify voices at the center of the social justice movement. Arlington Public Library will be hosting one of today’s most compelling and innovative authors in contemporary literature, Colson Whitehead, on October 22, 2020. Blue Hill Public Library in Maine has been hosting a virtual lecture series of distinguished panelists and community members to discuss topics of race. Many others are curating Anti-Racist book lists and customizing their catalogs to specifically highlight these titles.

Adjusting Library Budgets

Some of the hardest decisions affecting all of us this year has been the economic impact felt by libraries. Library managers are looking for ways to preserve and protect their employees while also being fiscally responsible to their patrons. At ByWater Solutions, we have seen an uptick in inquiries about switching to open source software in order to honor these commitments. Founded in 2009, we were born into one of the greatest economic downturns of our time. We served libraries then and we will continue to serve libraries through whatever else 2020 and beyond brings our way.

These are just a fraction of the ways in which library staff show up and stand up; day after day, year after year. We have listened to our library partners who have been called upon by their local governments to be first and second responders, who have stood in the hot sun distributing masks, and who have warmly welcomed students back to their college campuses. In case you haven’t heard it today- we see you, we value you, we thank you.

Read more by Kalleen Marquise

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