Over the past few months, libraries have been hard at work providing key services to the populations they serve while maintaining social distancing. A recent survey from the American Library Association found several powerful examples of ways libraries have stepped up during the COVID-19 crisis.
The pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity in many areas, and some libraries have joined forces with other community partners to provide hunger relief. “Our community has serious food insecurity issues, and we have been involved in addressing that for the past several years. COVID-19 has made the situation even worse,” North Carolina’s High Point Public Library reported in the survey. The library hosts a weekly farmers market that has continued during the pandemic, and library staff have been hard at work making sure residents are aware that fresh groceries can be purchased using SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance) benefits.
Survey respondents from school and college/university libraries reported playing a key role in their institutions’ transition to distance learning, from supporting access to much-needed technology to digitizing course materials for remote use. “We checked out 143 laptops to students needing devices to do work online. This helped some students persist who may not have in this new learning environment,” reported Hawkeye Community College Library in Iowa.
Libraries of all kinds have also been hosting virtual storytimes, book clubs, and other programs to keep people informed and entertained while quarantining. Overall, libraries responding to the ALA survey reported increased engagement with their remote programming as well as greater use of virtual library cards. “We have been amazed by how far away our online storytimes have reached,” reported Mulvane Public Library in Kansas. “People message us with thanks from different continents!”