As quarantine becomes a way of life for most people, individuals aren’t the only ones affected. Libraries are among the many city services that have had to work overtime to ensure that they meet their patrons’ needs, but also protect the community from COVID-19.
Joyce Gendron, director of the Waldron District Library, said she has seen many impacts from COVID-19 on the library, where she has worked since March 2019. The restrictions accompanying the virus have been difficult on patrons, the library’s normal programming, and even normal operating procedures.
“Attendance and circulation certainly have decreased because of it. We also have seen a decrease in our elderly traffic that comes through here,” Gendron said.
Mossey Library Director Maurine McCourry said she also noticed the impact on library attendance by elderly patrons.
“There aren’t as many people from the community coming into the library, especially retirees,” McCourry said.
Along with the decrease in traffic, to remain within state guidelines, public libraries have to limit the number of patrons allowed into the library at one time, shorten hours, and even cancel events.
“Right now we are at 30% capacity,” Grendon said. This capacity limit has led to many libraries struggling to continue with their normally scheduled events.
Waldron District Library isn’t the only library scrambling to try to find a way to continue serving their communities. Mary Hill, director of Hillsdale Community Library, discussed the alternative services they have been providing like curbside pickup and online events.
“We’re really depending upon social media because we can’t physically have events in the building,” Hill said.
Gendron discussed some of the other measures that her library is taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within their community.
“When patrons bring books in, we quarantine them for three days,” Gendron said. Hillsdale Community Library goes even further: quarantining the books for six days after their return, not allowing the checkout of magazines, and limiting computer use. These measures have all just become parts of the normal routine for public libraries.
Public libraries have had to face yet another struggle: the prospect of less funding.
“Since library funding in Michigan is so tied up in state and federal funding, it gives us few opportunities to buck the system,” Hillsdale Mayor Adam Stockford said.
As a part of an educational institution, Mossey Library has not had to meet as many requirements as public libraries, McCourry said, adding that no programs or events were canceled last semester, and spring events should take place as scheduled.
Nevertheless, Mossey Library has had to follow some regulations because of its accessibility to the public.
“The state health department order applies to us because we are open to the public,” McCourry said. “If we only allowed students, faculty, and staff to come in here, we wouldn’t have to be abiding by the same kind of orders.”
While all these restrictions have presented a challenge, overall, local libraries have been supported in their endeavors.
“We feel really supported by the college,” McCourry said. “They’ve really tried hard to keep it safe, but also keep us going.”
Stockford also conveyed his appreciation for the librarians of Hillsdale County.
“Our librarians in Hillsdale truly believe in the stated missions of libraries,” Stockford said. “They don’t see it as just a job as much as a public service, and we appreciate their efforts tremendously.”
The return to a pre-COVID-19 world has been slow, but it is coming. Hill said that there has been an uptick in the number of people coming into the library and that she hopes this number will continue to go up as things return to some normalcy.
“Just let people know we are open,” she said.