“Libraries Around the World Prepare for a New Normal“ appears on the bibliotheca website and while it focuses on public libraries and their responses to the “new normal”, it has some lessons for academic libraries as well.
“Across the world, many countries have begun a gradual reopening of public life in an attempt to return a sense of normalcy to residents’ lives and diminish the economic impact of the Covid-19 global pandemic.
In South Korea, baseball has resumed, though the season began five-weeks late, and teams are playing to empty stands outfitted with photos of masked fans.
Through the specific restrictions put in place, and those being lifted vary widely across the globe, libraries are struggling to figure out the best course of action to safely resume providing services to their communities. The Australian Library and Information Association sums it up nicely: “Reopening will not mean going back to the way things were pre-COVID-19; it will mean putting in place the ‘new normal’ approach to library services.”
Libraries are not “low-risk”
After pushback from librarians, on April 20th, Johns Hopkins amended their previously published report which originally classified libraries as “low-risk” for re-opening. “There’s a perception that libraries are still these quiet, austere temples of knowledge, but we’ve really become community centers and gathering places,” said Peter Coyl, Director of the Montclair Public Library in New Jersey, in a recent Forbes article about the change.
This comes as no surprise to librarians, who welcomed the addendum to the Johns Hopkins report which states that “libraries that incorporate social activities or community gatherings into their services should refer to the ‘community centers’ category” – a category considered as medium to high risk, similar to restaurants and retail stores.
In Germany, the Bremen Public Library held a press conference with CEO, Barbara Lison and the Deputy Minister for Culture, Carmen Emigholz, on the reopening of the library.
Curbside or remote pickup
Many restaurants have continued to serve customers throughout the pandemic by offering curbside pickup of online or telephone orders. Most libraries have suspended all borrowing of physical items, often beefing up their digital collections to fill the gap. However, some libraries have offered curbside pickup, and many are considering it as a first phase of reopening.
In British Columbia, the Vancouver Public Library allows users to schedule a time to pick up holds. Users provide identification through a window, then back up beyond 6 ft. while library staff leave a bag of requested materials outside the door to be retrieved. When materials are returned through the book drop, staff members leave them untouched for 72 hours as a safety precaution…”
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Tom is originally from Brooklyn N.Y but has spent his entire professional career in South Carolina, most recently as Head of Reference Services at the College of Charleston. As part of the Against the Grain and Charleston Conference team, he serves as the associate editor of the print ATG as well as the co-editor of the webpage. Tom’s conference duties include coordinating the Penthouse Suite interviews as well as the conference poster sessions.
He received his MLS from the University of Buffalo, SUNY and a second master’s in public administration from the College of Charleston and the Univ. of South Carolina. His wife Carol and he live in downtown Charleston and she is an artist and a tour guide offering historic walking tours of the city.