“When you ask a child to draw a picture of a Zoo, they will inevitably draw a picture of animals behind bars. We need to get away from that image…” states Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny in the opening of “The Zoo.”
During the past few months, I have become quite fond of this show as I learn from wildlife conservators who want to teach and inform the public about what they do to make us aware of our part in preserving and exhibiting some of the wonders of nature.
If you ask a child to draw a picture of a library, you will likely see a picture of shelves of books.
A library is so much more. We have story times, magicians, Mingo, computers, WiFi, job help, and eResources along with our rows of books.
Much like the zookeepers at the Bronx Zoo, librarians are passionate about our work. We want to showcase what we do.
How do we do this in a time of pandemic when our doors are closed? We reinvent ourselves. We take the tools and resources we have and communicate with our public. Much like the thousands of libraries around the world, library staff have engaged our public with online story times, book clubs, escape rooms, trivia games, reading recommendations, and expanded eResource offerings of books, audiobooks, music and video with WiFi access in the parking lot to download and view library eResources.
This virtual presence gives us additional means to engage our public and help them find the informational, educational, and cultural resources they desire.
Closing library doors did not end library services but rather enhanced our offerings. Staff were already poised and ready to move forward for our patrons. Months before March 2020, the library began to gather tools such as Zoom and recording technology in order to develop and deliver virtual programming through social media and our web page. To accomplish this, staff learned new skills by researching and training. Perhaps, they did this more quickly than expected. In an ideal world, staff would have been more methodical in their approach to development. Nevertheless, they delivered the library. Employees met via Zoom, planned, and co-wrote scripts fine-tuning new services using unfamiliar technology.
They reinvented themselves and services adding to the relevance of the library. They dedicated themselves to the mission of the library and continued to learn, grow, and work to keep your library alive.
We miss our face-to-face interactions with patrons. We know the day to renew our personal relationships with patrons is coming soon. We also know we can reach our public in more ways than ever before.
Our patrons may miss the way we used to do it and we understand it is easier to do what is familiar. Over the years, our patrons have shown us they can accept and use new technology. They are resilient and I know they can adapt and adopt.
There is an old adage, “necessity is the mother of invention.” Librarians have done what is necessary to reinvent services in order to move forward in a different world. We now know we can serve our patrons in so many more ways.
Summer reading is upon us and this year’s summer reading is further evidence of our growth. How are we getting the word out? Like us on Facebook, go to our web page <www.poplarbluff.org>, and read the flyers.
Especially, we thank all who made it possible to deliver meals to children throughout Butler County. Not only is it meeting a great need for our children but it has allowed us to deliver summer reading flyers. This lets our patrons from the youngest to the oldest know about our programs. Everyone can read and win. Use the Read Squared app to record your reading, play library Bingo, or be everyday heroes. Patrons can turn in paper logs too.
To prepare for our opening, we have opened our outdoor book drop and instituted curbside service. When we open, we will continue curbside. Patrons can use our online catalog and My Account or call (573-686-8639) to place holds on wanted items. Staff can suggest books and videos. We can help patrons with an eCard for online resources. There are so many ways we are here to assist you.
I believe library staff are successful, delivering so many services in so many ways. Perhaps a child recognizes a library as more than a physical space but a place for access. This child might draw a picture of a library today that includes them in the outdoors with a librarian reading a book through a mobile device. You will see us differently with many different options.
Thanks to all of our patrons for caring for library materials while we were closed and thank you for returning these. We are concerned with the welfare of our patrons and staff. We have prepared a place for you.
Finally, let me say I am very proud of the Poplar Bluff Municipal Library staff’s accomplishments.
Sue Crites Szostak is director of the Poplar Bluff Municipal Library.