The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many aspects of our daily lives, from how and when we shop to the number of people with which we can gather. For the Meaford Public Library, which along with many other public facilities has been closed to the public since the middle of March, the state of emergency has been a time for adaptation and the embracing of technology in an effort to continue bringing programs to library patrons.
While the library has been closed to the public for the past seven weeks, library staff are continuing to work both from home and at the library itself. The library's Community Outreach Coordinator, Amy Solecki, told The Independent that when staff are working in the library building, they are ensuring that they adhere to social distancing measures.
“The team has been encouraged to work from home. If we do need to go into the building, we notify one another and make arrangements with other team members to maintain physical distance - often staying on separate floors. We wipe down any surface we have come into contact with before we leave. We also follow the Municipality of Meaford policies and protocols such as the screening process prior to entering the building,” Solecki explained. “The team members who enter the building are maintaining the upkeep of the facility - returning and shelving the material, in addition to collecting any items they need to work from home.”
Solecki said that staff is using the time to plan ahead, developing programs for the library to provide in the coming months once restrictions are eased, while also preparing for their eventual move to the new library, the construction of which is currently on hold by order of the province.
Staff has also developed some online programs for patrons to enjoy during this stay at home period.
“Much of the programming is being done from home and hosted online through the library's website and/or social media platforms,” Solecki explained. “We have story times online, how-to videos, social media challenges including Nailed or Failed (based on recipes found on Pinterest - in partnership with the Municipality of Meaford Cultural Services), Art Breaks, and book-related photo challenges (Book Face, Take a Shelfie, Book Buddies, Book Spine Poetry). We have shared links on social media to other resources such as author talks, virtual tours, and distance learning resources to help keep people connected.”
The library also offered a virtual Easter egg hunt where patrons were able to search through the library's website to find a dozen Easter eggs. Solecki said that more programs are in the works.
“We will be providing two programs on our website: Walk from Coast to Coast - a community walking challenge (in partnerships with Meaford Cultural Services), and Amazing Reads Canada - the summer reading challenge,” she said.
Programs aside, Solecki noted that library card holders have access to many free online resources through the library's website.
“Members are able to download eBooks, eAudiobooks, music, movies, and magazines. In addition, online learning resources such as World Book, Mango Languages, and more,” said Solecki. “We are pleased to say that we have also recently added the online learning platform: lynda.com. It offers a diverse range of courses – all free of charge.”
While library staff have worked to engage library users online, there are challenges to overcome.
“While we have been able to provide online programs, some of the challenges would be the accessibility of each. We have to be mindful of what resources people have at home if we are promoting a craft or activity. We do not want people to have to interact with others if it is not necessary (i.e. having to make special shopping trips) as we want to maintain physical distancing,” Solecki explained. “Another challenge we are facing is that not everyone has access to the online resources and programming as they do not have access to the internet. We are strategizing how to still provide library services to these people.”
In preparation for the eventual easing of restrictions, and a return to some amount of normalcy, the library is preparing 'Grab and Go' program kits which people can take with them when the library is once again able to open its doors to the public. The TD Summer Reading Program will be available online this year, and staff are also experimenting further with hosting Zoom meetings for programs that require many people to interact.
Solecki said that staff is looking forward to the reopening of the library, though there will likely be some changes.
“While we are looking forward to reopening the library, social distancing may have to be implemented. We are looking at reopening procedures and awaiting developments from the province and municipality on how to move forward. It is difficult to say how public libraries will be impacted going forward, but what will not change is our commitment to our community and the high standard of service we provide,” she said.
For those who do not have a Meaford Public Library membership card, they can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a temporary card, allowing access to all the online resources.