A Year At The Library During Covid-19
On March 17, 2020, the Putnam County Public Library closed its doors temporarily due to Covid-19. Since then, 535,000+ people have died in the United States due to Covid-19, with millions infected. Sixty of our community members have passed due to Covid-19 in the past year. The library mourns their loss, as well as the loss of every person due to Covid-19.
As we reflect on the past year, we hold the families, friends, and loved ones of those who have been affected by Covid-19 in our thoughts.
AMBER COMPTON, ADULT REFERENCE & ADULT PROGRAMS MANAGER
“This year has been challenging in so many ways and has also given us the opportunity to grow. Because of social distancing, staff learned how to use screen viewing services to help patrons on the computer. This has been great for different skill levels and allowed us to teach people new skills.
In the Adult area upstairs we have been working on a passion project called the Community Corner. We felt distant from our patrons who come in to see us sometimes daily and we wanted to create a space where we can provide information and resources. The Community Corner houses our Racial Equity collection and binders full of information, not just on Covid-19, but financial aid resources, tax filing, and more. The area was made through collaboration and we hope to see it grow in the future.
Finally, through Covid, we have been very grateful to be actively helping our community register for the vaccine. It is always a great feeling to see someone walk away with a book you know they are going to be immersed in, it’s another to know you’ve given someone peace of mind about their health and safety. It’s been a year of trials–from moving furniture to constant cleaning. We are so thankful to our patrons who have taken precautions to keep us and others safe and we look forward to a time when we can see their smiling faces again.”
MATT MCCLELLAND, LIBRARY DIRECTOR
“In a year when it seems like people can’t agree on much of anything, we can all agree that the last year has been one that we would all like to put in the rearview. However, I can say that despite all of the challenges, the library staff can take pride in how we have kept trying to improve things despite all that has gone on around us. It appears that the time is coming when everyone will be comfortable coming to the library again. When they do, I like to think that they will be impressed at many of the new services and improvements that we have made over the last year.”
CONNI NEISWINGER, CIRCULATION MANAGER
“This past year has been strange and challenging for all of us. Around this time last year, I was brainstorming ways for the library to continue to serve our patrons as we worked from home. Our director and the rest of the staff worked out a plan for the library to reopen safely. From working out ways to implement curbside pickup to how to install the barriers needed at the circulation desk, we all had to get creative and think outside the box.
This sense of teamwork and community have been some of my favorite things about this past year. Our team here at the library really came together and came up with some creative solutions and I’m so proud of that.
One of my favorite parts of working at the library is interacting with our patrons. The most difficult part of the past year for me has been the distance we all must keep from each other. I am a hugger, I like to give our youngest patrons stickers and bookmarks. All of those things are on hold right now. When the library reopened last summer I was glad to get back to my patrons.
Like everyone else, I can’t wait to get back to some sense of normalcy. The past year has been amazingly challenging and I have learned so much! The most important thing I learned is that I have an awesome job and work with amazing people!”
ANTHONY BARGER, ARCHIVIST
“It appears that we are getting close to the pandemic ending and approaching a new normal. As this surreal time is coming to an end, I find myself reflecting on the past year. Like everyone, the Archives Department has gone through some difficult times but has also used this period to create new ways to interact and assist patrons. Most notable of all of our losses was the passing of Ed Dewes of Covid. Ed was one of the library’s longest-serving volunteers. He started volunteering around 25 years ago and he is missed.
A difficulty for us, in the beginning, was not being able to directly interact with our patrons. A trait of the department is that we interact a lot with our patrons. It ranges from in-depth discussions about what collections to research to simple storytelling. In a department such as ours, patrons expect to see and handle the original documents. This came to a near full stop with the pandemic. Still, I admit that we have done a fine job of making sure that people got what they needed or wanted. In fact, our patrons stepped up by being both patient and going outside their comfort zone by embracing technology that previously they would not consider using.
Throughout the past year, we used our time well. Most people do not know this, but we have a room that contains thousands and thousands of documents that tell the history of our county. We have used this time to increase the entering of these collections into a database so that we can better serve the public. Also, as of recent, our director Matt McClelland wanted us to create a Digital Lab to help the people of Putnam County get their memories off of dated technologies such as 8mm film, cassettes, and VHS tapes. This may still have occurred despite the pandemic but we specifically wanted to give the public something positive. I am confident that we have done just that.
Finally, I believe the memory that will stay with me the most is how understanding and supportive the public has been. When people call, email, or briefly drop by, there is a heightened kindness. When they say, ‘take care’ or ‘stay safe’ I believe they mean it quite literally. That sentiment is mutual.”