Last March your Library closed to the public. We’ve been reflecting on what this meant for us, both as individuals and as an institution. As we look forward to reopening on Monday, April 19, we also want to reflect on where we’ve come from.
We’re capturing individual reflections on working at the Library during this unprecedented moment in time. Below you’ll find our conversation with Wendy from Adult Services.
What was your job before we closed, and how has it changed in the last year?
I became a full librarian last February, right before COVID hit. As a new librarian in Adult Services, my focus was going to be on collection development—ordering and purchasing books. I had done a lot of that before and really enjoyed it.
One of the biggest ways the Library’s closure changed my job was that we began focusing on growing our digital collections. Where people couldn’t come in and check out books, we wanted them to be able to access books online. So thankfully, even while we were closed, we were able to purchase digital materials through R.E.A.D.S.
It’s been hard sometimes to know what to add to the collection while we’ve been closed. Since we don’t have people coming in to browse or ask for specific books, we’ve had to be more strategic about what we buy. I’ve loved when patrons have requested books during our closure, because it’s a way to stay in touch with what our community wants.
But in some ways, our jobs in Adult Services haven’t changed too much. A big part of what we do in our department is answer people’s questions about lots of different topics, help people find books or use computers. We’re still answering phones all day, helping connect people with the information they need, whatever that might be. We can still help, it’s just a different way of going about it.
How has the Library’s closure affected your view of the role libraries play in society?
The library plays multiple roles. There’s the traditional role of providing books and entertainment, but over the years it’s also become a community center organization. Now we help with things like job-searching and resumes, we provide space for students to study and research, we do genealogy. We’ve held all sorts of community events, many in partnership with other organizations: art exhibits, park cleanup, beekeeping, yoga on the front lawn.
So I think when everything shut down, we had to ask—with the building closed, how do we serve our community? I do think we’ve continuously shown that we’re here for people, still offering books through curbside, holding virtual programs. For instance, people can now check out laptops. The hope with the laptop checkouts is that they will help people who would typically use our computer lab and don’t have access to it now.
What are some words you would use to describe working at the Library this last year?
Support. Internally we are really supportive of each other. Like when curbside started, we all pitched in and made it happen. We’ve also spent time this year cross-training in different departments, which has been helpful. And we’ve had a lot of one-on-one conversations to help support each other. That’s how we get through this. I would also say open-minded, evolving, and adaptability. Different people bring different perspectives and suggestions, and in uncharted territory you have to be open to new possibilities and how to achieve them.
Click here for details about the Library’s reopening on Monday, April 19. Follow Johnson City Public Library on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube for daily updates on our collections and services.