The pandemic has had some surprising side effects at the Nelson Public Library, Melodie Rae Storey writes. Photo submitted

The pandemic has had some surprising side effects at the Nelson Public Library, Melodie Rae Storey writes. Photo submitted

COLUMN: Contagion, kindness, and the importance of libraries

While the pandemic has been challenging, it has also made people reconnect with the library

By Melodie Rae Storey

Like everyone else in the world, I recently watched the movie Contagion and found it eerie how well it predicted the pandemic that we find ourselves in.

But I couldn’t help but notice that there was one thing the screenwriters didn’t get right. They missed out on the many kindnesses that have come with all the trouble. I don’t blame them. Before this happened, could you imagine millions of people selflessly staying home so that they would not endanger others? Could you predict millions of essential workers going to work even though they were in danger? I would have found it hard to believe that people worldwide would be cheering out their balconies at 7 p.m. to encourage and thank front-line workers. But these things have happened.

Kindness has also been a theme at the library during the quarantine. After we first closed our building, we sent out an e-newsletter asking people how they were and inviting them to connect with us if they needed help navigating our online services or if they just needed human interaction. We couldn’t believe the response. You emailed, called us, DMd us just to talk! We loved it because we missed you too. Libraries have always been about serving and caring for the community. At its simplest, libraries buy things and share them. We welcome everyone and offer something to everyone.

Libraries also traditionally serve as the community living room, but with the building closure, we have been working hard not to lose that connection with you. We created online meeting places to chat books, parenting help, home-schooling tips. We have ongoing online storytimes and Mother Goose sessions. We beefed up our online book, magazine and movie collection, which you have appreciated as our numbers have skyrocketed. People in the community have been discovering us for the first time and we have seen a spike in online registrations.

We are supporting local businesses through our Let’s Chat With series. We started a take-out service, giving out paper bags full of requested books to our patrons, and we have never heard so many sincere thank yous. We ramped up our social media presence to connect with you.

We started a Pen Pal Club so people could still connect with each other. We may not know when we can open our physical building, but we do know that we will continue serving the community we care so much about. Libraries have always been kind and a pandemic will only make that kindness stand out more, just like it has everywhere else in the world.

Melodie Rae Storey is the teen and literary services co-ordinator at the Nelson Public Library.