Documenting Personal Experiences During the Pandemic

Welcome to Ask ALSC, where the Managing Youth Services Committee asks leaders in children’s libraries to share their response to an issue or situation.  We hope to showcase a range of responses to topics that may affect ALSC members. If you’d like to respond to today’s topics, or suggest a topic for the future, please leave a comment.

Documenting Personal Experiences During the Pandemic

September, 2020

This morning I noticed yellow leaves on the Sweet Gum Tree outside my front door.  I glanced down the block at the Sugar Maple of my neighbor and sure enough, reds and oranges are signaling change.  When the leaves fall in my hometown children return to school and football becomes priority one.  This year, of course, is different.

Families face an impossible choice this fall; risk the health and possibly the very life of their children by sending them to school, or risk their family’s home and well-being by sacrificing income.  My heart goes out to anyone who has made this decision.  It’s personal and individual.  

In our family, my granddaughter is attending first grade from my house.  We are using our district’s virtual school option and this, along with flexible hours, have allowed me to help facilitate her learning.  We are fortunate this is an option.  The experience has me reflecting on generations past, and generations to come.

I have a collection of postcards written in my great-grandmother’s hand documenting the time during WWII. She wrote to her brother, who served in the Pacific fleet alongside the man who would later become her second husband.  Inspired by these missives, I’ve been writing my own letters to my two grandchildren-documenting thoughts and feelings I hope they will read many years from now to remember who they were and we are.  

In the quiet before I fall asleep I find myself considering my own mortality.  What testament of our family’s daily life will be left for future generations?  Will my great, great, granddaughter be proud that I rearranged my life to make sure my granddaughter learned to read?  Will she understand that as a librarian, I believe reading is the beginning of a truly fulfilled and enlightened life?

I’ve written pages hoping to provide insight, yet still struggle with effectively recording the monotony of stillness, the sadness of birthdays minimally celebrated, the fear in a sneeze. 

Others are documenting this time using video, audio, blogs, art, other written word forms.  Archivists are certain to be looking for that mix of visual and auditory record, to pair with written words, that effectively captures our feelings for future generations.

How will you be remembered?  What will those who come after you be told about opening a library, or not?  About providing services or protecting individuals most at risk by limiting their access to the library building?  Will they remember you learned the technology necessary to provide virtual storytimes to young children or trivia to bored teens?  Did you teach seniors how to facetime for Easter as I did?  Will they know you fed children whose families were struggling or wrote a grant for hotspots to help alleviate the technology gap?

Whatever it is you’re doing during the COVID-19 pandemic, great job.  I’m proud of you.  And I encourage you to document your actions.  Someone will want to know.

  • Today’s blog post was written by Tammie Benham, Youth Services Consultant at Southeast Kansas Library System, on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee. She can be reached at tbenham@sekls.org . 

This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies of I-3, II-7, & IV-7.

One comment

  1. Viviane

    Wow … What thoughtful insight.
    In a time where we are focused on ourselves, hoping to not become a statistic in the pandemic of a novel virus, and trying our best to stay alive – in all of the definitions of what “alive” can mean – it was thought provoking to read such an in-depth blog of a different experience. This really is something to ponder on an intimate level and gives rise to something greater than, and outside of, our personal selves.

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