This season for many of us looks a little different professionally than we might have imagined. As some libraries softly launch more in-person interactions, others may be in a constant state of preparation only to discover that making plans is extremely challenging in this current state. Many institutions have determined that moving forward there will always be space for virtual offerings in their service models. While we all have some sense of wishing to unplug, I am trying to reflect on how technology has allowed us to connect in unique ways over the past year and a half. I’m also looking to the future to see how virtual offerings might not necessarily be the end to purposeful experiences for the communities we serve.
As I write this, it has been almost two and a half months since my library closed its doors due to the pandemic. My job now, like so many of you reading this, is nothing like it once was. I had been a children’s librarian in a public library, assisting parents and children alike in the library on a daily basis; now I am a virtual services children’s librarian, and all my interactions with patrons are virtual, filtered through social media and camera lenses. I used to thrive on making personal connections with each patron who visited the library, and now I subsist on Facebook comments and video views.
The School-Age Programs and Services Committee recently met online to discuss our next steps during these wild, unprecedented times. If it wasn’t clear before, it certainly has become so in recent weeks: so much of the work we do as librarians relies on face-to-face interactions. How do we provide programs and services to young people when we’re prohibited from doing so in person? Additionally, when so many young people are spending several hours a day attending school online, how do we reach out in a way that isn’t requiring additional online media saturation?