Libraries open new coronavirus chapter

Apr 13, 2020

Checking in and out books, stocking shelves and searching for stories for patrons is just some of the many jobs a librarian does each day. They also are a news source, a technological lifeline and a friendly face for many patrons.

So for Susan Pizzolato, Mattapoisett Public Library’s executive director, locking the doors of her library “was not a very good feeling.”

It’s a reality that all the libraries in the Tri-Town face in light of coronavirus concerns. Now, its staff have to find a way to run a library online, and from their homes.

“Working from home sounds easy, but living your day-to-day life is challenging,” while also working in the same space, said Pizzolato. She and her staff are very passionate about their relationships with patrons, so she worries about those who come to the library for their news and thus aren’t online. 

Plumb Library Executive Director Gail Roberts said that her job became more stressful leading up to the closure

It was a very quick process from first hearing about the virus to closing the library, she said. “We would make a decision in the morning, have to change it at the end of the day, and then change it again the next morning.”

Plumb Library tried to use a curbside pickup system so that patrons could pick up books they had on hold because inter-library loans had stopped in early March.

But by March 13, the library was closed following the closure of town buildings.

Roberts makes sure to go in once by herself every week to answer voicemails and make sure everything is running smoothly. To see all the March events posted on its walls “feels like a time capsule.”

Although the physical libraries are closed, each library still strives to keep business as close to usual as possible.

Elizabeth Sherry, the executive director of the Elizbeth Taber library, has started giveaways at her library. Last week, the library gave away new, unused puzzles from its collection and plans to run more giveaways each month.

Plumb Library has been active on social media, posting free resources that companies offer to patrons at the expense of the library.

Mattapoisett Free Public Library does a seed exchange every spring. In lieu of handing out seeds in the building, residents now email the library to have packets delivered to their home.

Pizzolato also said they’ve been able to call some of the frequent customers who they know are not connected to the internet to check in on them and make sure they are doing okay.

“When you’re in the library, you don’t think about a library without its people,” said Sherry. 

So, behind the scenes, librarians are learning new resources and technologies to generate new content that they can still share with their patrons.

Sherry said that her staff members are working to craft videos and video storytelling for kids. While all April events were cancelled, the Marion director is working hard to make sure they are either rescheduled or happen online.

All of this is done in efforts to help the patrons who regularly visit the library, whom Sherry, her staff, and the libraries in the Tri-Town miss.