To borrow a line from Hemingway, how did my library life change in the last month? Two ways: gradually and then suddenly.
COVID-19 has radically changed what I think and feel about my job at the library, and I bet it has for you as well. When our programs were cancelled, I accepted it and kept going. When our doors were closed, I bustled with new ideas: I could create an online storytime. I could use our social media to broadcast much-needed information on school lunch distribution and local ordinances. When the mom of one of my book club kids wrote to ask if we could do a digital book club, I added it to my mental checklist of Proof of the Library’s Value. Information I could use to show how necessary we are, in this time of crisis. Data I could show to stockholders once the dust all settled. I was going to use this for advocacy, I knew it.
Then, in my library system, we were sent home. No one but management has been permitted to telework, so the rest of us are all… waiting.
Because we’re not permitted to telework (as of now, at least), I’m not allowed to create virtual storytimes, or share resources on social media. I know some of our library colleagues in other library systems have been furloughed, or even laid off. I have been asking myself: how do we practice advocacy for the library in a time like this? Do I even want to?
Personally, I’m trying to navigate all of this uncertainty in a few different ways. I’m keeping notes on all the cool digital programs I’m seeing other libraries put on. You’ll still find me practicing my ukulele for storytime most days. I’m trying to stay optimistic that I might be able to go back to work soon. Similarly, I’m hopeful that sometime down the road, I might be able to share stories about the library’s work with our community’s stakeholders, if not in-person, then digitally.
If you’re like me, and you aren’t able to pour your heart into your work like you used to, what are you doing to cope? How are you making peace with your worries and limitations? How are you advocating for yourself?
Chelsey Roos is a member of the ALSC Advocacy and Legislation Committee. She is a Children’s Librarian with the Alameda County Library in Castro Valley, California.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competency: V. Outreach and Advocacy.