empty library due to COVID

A Place For Inspiration | The Helpers Next Door

Aug 19, 2020  | 118

by Marissa Lindeman

All over Iowa, businesses and individuals are continuing to adapt to the challenges of COVID-19. Local public libraries are one such location, and the unique set of difficulties that this pandemic has created for them has only served to shine light on the resilience and ingenuity with which staff have responded.

Shanna Speer, Director of Nevada Public Library, has made many transitions at the library during the pandemic, and she's optimistic about the many services they’ve been able to provide online. The public library’s website is chock-full of resources for people who are looking for entertainment or education.

They have services like HOOPLA and Bridges, which people can use with their library cards for free ebooks, audiobooks, and movies. Programming has become entirely virtual and curbside services are available for those who prefer paper copies of books. In a time like this we might underestimate the importance of having access to the library. But libraries have become essential for a variety of reasons. People without access to reliable internet or a computer come in to print important documents and look for jobs. They’re social locations as well- where many people gather to relax and connect with friends.

Shanna noted the importance of reading or watching movies as stress relief, saying “Primarily what we’ve found is that books are still a big part of people’s lives and right now they need that to help them have a sense of normalcy.”

Libraries have also been a sanctuary for a lot of children. Many looked forward to visiting the library and spend their summers coming often to work on reading programs or to meet new friends.

Travis Landhuis, Nevada’s children’s librarian, has experienced the change this has created within his own job. Typically this time of year would include in-person storytime, instead Travis has been hosting them live on the library’s Facebook page. Although he remarked that it’s very different to sing and tell silly stories by yourself with kids tuning in, he’s striving to make it as close to as what it would be like to have in-person as possible.

In addition to virtual story time, Travis has helped mastermind the summer reading programs for this year. Children have the ability to do these all at home, with a “create your own adventure” theme. They’re designed to spark curiosity, but also allow readers to stay in their comfort zone a little. They can pick between options like researching insects they find outside or just reading on their own.

Travis hopes that this will be a source of inspiration for youth. “I wanted this job specifically because I think it’s the most important thing in the world… to provide a safe, friendly place for people that’s surrounded by books and learning and creativity," he said. "In trying to replicate that, you realize how valuable the space itself is… it ensures connections, whereas with the internet it’s just whoever happens upon it.”

In talking about the future and reopening the library, Shanna indicated they currently don’t have a timeline for when, but they're considering the many precautions they’d have to take. Cleaning high-touch surfaces, temporarily quarantining returned items, and socially distancing within the library are all potential solutions that could be implemented.

In order to make social distancing work upon reopening, however, Shanna acknowledged that patrons will have to use the library a little differently, saying: “People spend a lot of time in the library, and that’s really the biggest thing- we still need to limit that. We want as many people to utilize our services as possible, but you can’t stay all day.”