As we head into fall and winter, we here at the library are continuing to evaluate our current services, and look for ways to improve those services while maintaining the safety of the public and our staff.
In September, we solicited feedback from our users in a survey. We were grateful for each and every response. The library received a total of 310 responses. So many respondents were very kind in sharing their appreciation for the work of the library staff in providing materials, programs, and other services amid current public health restrictions, and we are heartened and encouraged by those messages.
We recognize, however, that many users are frustrated that the library building remains inaccessible. I provided our rationale for focusing on curbside service previously. Much of what users miss about being in our building would not be possible in the midst of the pandemic. We are aware, however, that what many users truly miss is ability to browse. We understand, and we have taken steps to make virtual browsing a more enjoyable experience.
We have recently created a more user-friendly way to browse new and recommended materials on our website–virtual bookshelves, in which cover images link directly to the library catalog so you can request those materials.
Every Friday afternoon we update a scrolling gallery of the current week’s books, audiobooks, and DVDs. You can also go back and look at the new materials from previous weeks, as well as access new materials by category, audience, and interest. We have also created a “Staff Picks” page so you can see what our staff are currently reading. This page is updated monthly.
Curated Book Bundles
Our Library to Go service, in which we will select customized bundles of library materials based on your interests, has been increasingly popular. If you haven’t tried this service, we encourage you to do so! Our librarians LOVE the opportunity to find just the right books, audiobooks, and DVDs to match your interests. If you don’t want a surprise bundle, we can provided you with a personalized list of recommended materials.
Another area for improvement identified in the responses to our survey was the curbside pick-up process. We now have 30 minute windows for our appointments rather than short time slots. This not only makes the schedule less rigid for our users, it also allows us to accommodate more users per hour. Thank you so much for this suggestion!
Youth Services Programs
Our Youth Services staff have been working on more Take-and-Make kits as well as additional virtual story times and other programs.
“But everything else is open, so…”
While the majority of respondents to our survey were grateful for our current services, we did hear some confusion about why our building remains closed when grocery stores, restaurants, and bookstores are open. Retail operations are staffed by cashiers and door monitors whose only responsibility is to serve customers. When inventory is received, it need only be accounted for and stocked on shelves for customers to select and purchase. In contrast, library materials end up on our shelves available for library users to borrow only through the behind-the-scenes work of multiple library employees. Our staff are currently busy providing the highest level of service possible by making new materials, requested materials, interlibrary loans, virtual programs, and take-and-make kits available to our users.
While some libraries in nearby communities have opened their buildings for limited in-person service, many others have found that they are best able to provide access to their collections and services through curbside and virtual services, just as we have. Every library building is different, with its own unique challenges when it comes to social distancing and monitoring visitors. Staffing levels differ at each library as well.
Given existing state guidelines, our current staffing levels, and the layout of our building with its two service desks on two different floors, the shift to opening our doors to a limited number of people for a limited amount of time would necessarily result in a diminished level of service overall.
Planning for the Future
- Public health guidelines given the state of the pandemic
- The nature of our particular building and the ability to allow for social distancing and monitoring patron use
- Staff workflow, and ability to keep library staff socially distanced during the work day
- The availability of additional custodial support
As the Library Director, I am in constant contact with other library directors–both in state and across the country–about best practices, safety protocols, and service models. I am also in daily contact with the Town Manager and other Town departments about our continued operations during the pandemic.
As always, we are eager to hear from you and welcome your continued feedback. You can always email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel Davis, Library Director