How Libraries Have Responded to the Pandemic

My entire childhood was spent skipping between other worlds. I slipped into book jackets, putting my hands through the sleeves and binding myself to the pages. I hung the jackets in the closet of my mind, where the universes could be reached at a moment’s notice. But being able to purchase books is a privilege, not every school has a library, not every student can run to bookstores. Many, like myself, ricocheted between public libraries. 

Public libraries are havens; today they don’t only provide access to free books, they are community centers. They protect patrons from the elements, provide free wifi, and access to computers. Librarians in multilingual cities like L.A., provide resources in multiple languages and have staff members who are bilingual themselves. Other facilities have specialized programs and offer workshops. For instance, Chicago’s Public Library system created YOUmedia in 2009, the innovative teen digital learning space can be found at 23 public library locations. There, teens have the opportunity to explore fields like graphic design, photography, music, and STEM curricula. 

Textbooks Photo by freestocks from Unsplash

However, since the start of the pandemic, many libraries have been forced to close. While these safety precautions are necessary to slow and prevent the spread of COVID-19, many patrons who relied on libraries have had to find other ways to reach these resources, and, similarly, librarians have had to find ways to contact their patrons. 

Many libraries, like those in Seattle, Brooklyn, and Boston, have established online databases. Accessing these resources is as simple as typing in your name and the number on your library card. In fact, according to OverDrive, which libraries often use to lend out digital material, weekly online book lending in the US has increased approximately 50% since March 2020. 

Other facilities have created rolling repositories. Seattle Public Library, for instance, has several trailers with the capabilities to loan out and deliver materials. Those without traveling repositories, offer to ship or deliver books to your doorstep. 

books on bookstore shelf Photo by Alfons Morales from Unsplash

There are many other virtual ways to encourage reading and literary accessibility. For example, the British Library’s “Anything But Silent” podcast talks to authors and explores other literary news in an effort to encourage reading. And other libraries, like the Gambier-Mount Vernon Public Library in Ohio, have shifted their writing workshops online. 

While the pandemic has continued to present challenges, many libraries have found ways to overcome these difficulties and make their resources available to remote patrons. Of course, I would prefer to walk between aisles of dusty book jackets and watch the way the light dances across the gold embossed binding, but there is certainly something miraculous about being able to access free books from the comfort of my own home.