Many libraries may have closed their doors, but it doesn’t mean they have shut down shop. During the crisis, libraries have been busier than ever behind the scenes, adapting their services to continue answering their communities’ needs. More than ever, they are proving themselves to be at the very center of community life. But the future is still very uncertain.

Life during lockdown – how are libraries coping?

We thought we’d take a look at just how libraries have been adapting to the current crisis, and what plans they have for reopening.

A PLA survey showed that 76% of public libraries have extended their renewal policies during the crisis. 74% have expanded online offerings such as ebooks and streaming media, and 61% have added virtual programming. Not only that, libraries have provided invaluable services for their communities such as sharing vital local information and working to help the vulnerable and homeless.

Meanwhile, an ongoing University of Illinois survey of academic libraries’ response to the pandemic shows 94% of libraries have closed their doors, with 82% limiting their lending to phone and online only. Librarians report an increased workload since the start of the pandemic, many with colleagues having been furloughed. Above all, the safety of staff and users has been paramount.

Life after lockdown – what comes next?

Many remain optimistic about the reopening of libraries. The question is how to open the library doors while public and staff safety remain top priority. One thing is for certain when lockdown ends – there will be a surge in library patronage, which means busy times ahead.

There will be a fine balance of dealing with increased user numbers, while remembering that the library is and always must remain a safe haven…

All of which means librarians have quite a task ahead of them, and the prospect of reopening can indeed be considered daunting. To help you get there, we’ve taken a look at a few of the things that librarians have been talking about in preparation for reopening:

  • Social distancing isn’t going away. Libraries will have to remove furniture or increase the space between desks and computers, maybe installing screens or closing off study rooms. Patron numbers will need to be limited, and special times dedicated to those most vulnerable.
  • Hygiene will be king. Books, computers and surfaces will have to be disinfected. Pima County Public Library in Tucson, Arizona is even considering temperature checks for those entering the building.
  • On-site programs will be cancelled. But, you can continue to offer programs virtually via social media or video conferencing.
  • The returns will flood in. Prepare for the avalanche of thousands of items taken out prior to library closure in March. To help with this, and with borrowing in general, why not allow curbside pick-up and drop-off of requested materials.
  • The library as a “place” becomes less important. With the increase in borrowing ebooks, audio and streaming set to continue after the lockdown ends, the library buildings will become less important. So, maintain your library’s position in the community by offering other local services, such as helping the (many) newly jobless find work. Brooklyn Public Library is already offering assistance with the preparation of resumes and cover letters.

Cutbacks, cutbacks

It’s no secret that there are tough economic times ahead once the crisis eases. Academic libraries – as well as public – are without doubt going to face strategic cutbacks as their parent institutions take a financial hit in the economic downturn. They’ll also likely see a further increase in requests for digital delivery as campuses remain closed. While librarians are masters of the art of doing more with less, there will most likely be challenges ahead. It’s worth pointing out that they can rely on their information partners, WT Cox, to help them through these difficult times.

Help is at hand

WT Cox has been helping the library community for over 45 years, and our customers are our number one priority.

So take a look at how we do what we do at WT Cox. We’re known for our outstanding commitment to excellence. We make your library initiatives our business.

WT Cox – Experience Choice. Where extraordinary service happens.

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