Libraries are Proving they are more than just a Physical Space

Libraries are Proving they are more than just a Physical Space

Librarians have spent the better part of the last 30 years fighting to prove the necessity of the library in every community and school.  As the economy changed libraries were targets for closure, deemed unnecessary by many with the advent of the internet and digital resources.  When we tell people what we do they say, “We still have libraries?” or the ever-popular, “why do we need libraries? We have the internet!” 

When COVID-19 showed up on our shores there was a dilemma: we have spent years telling people we are essential yet now we are closing our doors.  Many communities kept the libraries open because they are the place for communities to “gather in times of emergency.” Of course, this emergency meant we SHOULDN’T be gathering, so what do we do? How do libraries still serve their communities if they can’t open their buildings?

That has never been more obvious until now. Libraries around the country are opening their digital doors and reaching out to the community where they are, at home. 

Some libraries did (and are still doing) curbside service for physical items.  However, all libraries are focusing on eResources; buying and giving access to more eBooks, promoting digital learning tools, taking advantage of many of the vendors who are offering free and discounted products and services to libraries to pass along to their patrons.  

As we enter the second month of social distancing and stay-at-home orders libraries are just entering their stride. Storytimes on Facebook and Instagram have become regular programs for the littles who miss their “library ladies (and guys)”. Libraries are supporting online learning mandates by providing digital materials. Online book groups and electronic reference services are extremely popular.  Libraries are sharing links to the numerous authors who are reading their books online. They are streaming concerts, virtual museum tours, sharing local history and photos from their historical collections, posting instructional videos on sewing face masks from materials you have on hand, crafts for the whole family, and downloadable coloring pages, games, and puzzles.  

Some libraries are using their MakerSpaces with their 3D printers to print respirators and face shields for the hospitals and their sewing machines to make cloth masks for their community.

Librarians and library staff ARE essential.

Students perform better with school librarians on campus and literacy rates are higher where communities have active literacy programs. A space is generally necessary; however, these past weeks have proven that it is the people who staff those spaces that are essential. 

Melissa Powell, MLIS
Customer Success Manager
TLC • The Library Corporation

Justin Larsen Larsen