Heather Goldik

COLUMN: The library in the time of COVID-19

The doors might be locked, but librarians are still busy, Heather Goldik writes

By Heather Goldik

Right now I am sitting at my kitchen table, in front of my computer watching my dog chase squirrels in her sleep.

I never thought working in a public library would look like this.

I pursued a career in libraries for two reasons; my love of books and my love of working with people. And yet here I am. I haven’t touched a library book or talked to a library member in person for over a month.

What does a library look like when there is no building to go into and no print books to check out? The delivery system is different, but the core of what we do is still the same.

Libraries are the great connectors. And we are still doing that online in the best and safest ways we can.

Libraries connect readers to books. And while scrolling through a screen is not the same as browsing the shelves at the library, you can get eBooks, audiobooks and magazines on your computer, tablet or laptop. We have been creating themed book lists and sharing them on Facebook to help you find your next book. Get book recommendations from a librarian by calling us or requesting a personalized Your Next Five Reads list through our website.

Libraries connect people to information. Now, more than ever we understand the importance of getting our information from reliable sources. Our librarians have been working hard on creating subject guides to help you find the information you need both locally and beyond. We also have free online self-directed courses that will help you build your career, digital, creative and interpersonal skills.

Libraries connect community members to each other. In the last month we have collaborated with our community partners to offer our book clubs, programs and workshops online. We are connecting with you through our email and social media platforms. We have also been trying things that are new to us, like our Pen Pal Club and online Youth Writing Challenge.

Libraries connect people to technology. Pre-COVID-19 you could make an appointment to meet with a librarian one-on-one to help you learn how to use your device or access online services. This hasn’t changed. We can still help you do this, but now it is over the phone, with video tutorials or online workshops.

I don’t mean to imply that a closed library building doesn’t have an impact. It does. The pandemic shines a light on a great inequality that already existed. Not everyone in Canada has the necessary digital skills or access to the internet. And the number of people without access to good internet is greater in rural and lower income households. We have always tried to fill that gap with our free Wi-Fi, public computers and help from library staff.

We’re still trying to fill that gap. Our Wi-Fi is on and available outside the library. Library staff are answering the phones Monday to Saturday from 10-6. Call us at 250-352-6333 and we will help you use your device, access library services, have a chat, or find the information you need.

There is still nothing better than a library full of people and in-person interactions. Many of us love a printed book over all else. I look forward to the day when I pack my lunch, lock my door behind me and head to the library building to unlock the library doors to you, our community. But until then, we look forward to connecting with you in our online programming, on social media or over the phone.

Heather Goldik is the adult services co-ordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week.

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