Guest Blogger

Using the Covid experience to help us grow in our work

Earlier this year, Maeve Brewer and Mary Voors joined the ALSC Mentoring program with the hope that collaborative learning and personal/professional growth would result. We decided that one of our mentorship goals would be to write a blogpost on the general topic of how we can use the Covid experience to help us become stronger and more adaptable children’s librarians and managers.

Maeve’s perspective:

The experience from the pandemic at our library has caused us to evaluate what we were doing before. A lot of the things we were doing were what had been done for 20 years and we just kept doing them because “it’s what we’ve always done” but it wasn’t working anymore. The shut-down and the pause in in-person programming gave us a chance to see what worked well and what could be could changed. It also gave us a chance to look around for some new ideas, forcing us to think outside the box and in new ways. Did we cut programming? Yes. Did we adjust how we were doing some programs? Yes. The changes we made to original programs and the new ones we initiated are fresh. As patrons return and seek programs for their children, we are seeing a rise in numbers and increased interest in these programs.

Some major takeaways from Maeve:

  • It has also given me a chance to look at our department and make some changes to our setup and things we offer on a daily basis.
  • Recognizing that communication is very important, we have learned about new tools that can help with communication for groups during remote work.
  • We realized that there is a need for flexibility. Whether that be in how we do programs or how and where staff work, there is a need for flexibility.

Mary’s perspective:

I have spent most of my adult life working in libraries, the largest percentage in a larger public library system in which I was the manager of the main library’s Children’s Services department. This department boasted an extensive collection and robust programming. In-house programming was well-developed and the ability to reach outside our walls with daycare/school visits and an increasing number of cooperative ventures with local organizations offered dramatic networking opportunities.

And then the pandemic happened. In-house programs stopped. Outreach stopped. Staff were sent home to work remotely

But the desire to offer services was still so very strong. Like many libraries, we began to offer a variety of virtual storytimes and programs such as Trivia Games, Virtual Bingo, Lego, and escape rooms. We offered “take and make” activities as part of our curb-side service. We put large teddy bears in the windows to greet families and offer a friendly face as people walked by. But what did we learn that can be continued/discontinued as we move into the “after” portion of the pandemic?

Some major takeaways from Mary:

  • Acknowledge that people – both staff and customers – are overwhelmed. Be ready and willing to offer wellness activities.
  • Ongoing, clear communication among staff is vitally important. Implementation of services based on feedback from library users is equally important.   
  • Outreach and the ongoing ability to reach our users with books, information, and services is vital.

A great deal of research about how libraries responded and continue to respond during the Covid-19 pandemic has been conducted. The literature search we conducted offered a wealth of information concerning programming, health & well-being, accessibility, and leadership. Here is a sampling:

Libraries Responded in the Early Days of the Pandemic: A Study of the LIS Literature

  • Topics in this study include remote services, collection development, teaching & instruction, and health & well-being.
  • Offered recognition that shifting programs to virtual programs was a challenge which was met successfully.
  • Confirmation of something librarians have long known: “the library encompasses so much more than a building with books and journals in it; a library is also a collection of people and services and technologies.

Pivot, and Pivot Again: How Do We Best Serve Patrons in the Constantly Changing Pandemic     Landscape?      

  • This article discusses programs such as “to-go” programs and family nature clubs offered by libraries. 
  • Parents, teachers, and caregivers reached out to the Library for curriculum support, and libraries must be ready to offer that support.
  • Offering support to homeschoolers through webinars and enhanced online resources, and a shift in collection development budgets to support these needs is important.

Leadership During Crisis: Lessons and Applications from the Covid-19 Pandemic

  • Leaders communicate transparently and humbly that they don’t have all the answers. This gives staff hope even if there are no answers. This is also a good way to motivate staff.
  • Through a development of short-term resources and a focus on long-term goals, good leaders develop and communicate a sense of direction.                                   
  • Crisis breeds opportunity; the pandemic offered practice in making quick, sometimes difficult, choices. 

Pandemic Reflections on Youth Librarianship: One Year Later      

  • Libraries are not going anywhere!
  • Virtual programming is not going anywhere!
  • It’s time to reevaluate EVERYTHING!

How to Help Homeschoolers and E-learners   

  • Enhancing the homeschool resource page on your library’s website – or adding one – is more important than ever.
  • Updating homeschooling and parenting books as well as e-learning resources is vital.
  • Having a digital reference tool of homeschool resources for is increasingly useful for staff.

What have you and your library learned from the pandemic? Are there services or practices you plan to continue that were implemented while your library was shut down? Are there services or practices you routinely offered before Covid-19 hit that you may never implement again? Let us know in the comments below. Let’s learn from each other!

Today’s guest bloggers are Mary Voors and Maeve Brewer.

Maeve Brewer is currently working as the Children’s Services Manager at the Frankfort Community Public Library. She is finishing up her MLIS and continues to pass down her love of literature and information to her own children as well as those in her community.

Photo credit: Heidi Brewer

Mary R. Voors is the ALSC Blog Manager and the former manager of a Children’s Services department in a large midwestern library system. She loves reading picture books, early chapter books, YA fiction & nonfiction, and the occasional book written for adults. In her spare time, Mary has taken up competitive powerlifting.

Photo Credit: Teresa Stephens

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