Placentia Library District
Covid-19 Response to the Community
"The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library." ~Albert Einstein
By Jeanette Contreras, Library Director
Albert Einstein never dreamed that libraries could provide services and access to knowledge outside the physical building. Here we are in the year 2020, and what a year it has been! Covid-19 abruptly changed the landscape of libraries across the state and worldwide. One might wonder how libraries can continue to provide the basic fundamental literacy, research, and educational needs of our communities with the surge of the uncontainable virus that has resulted in libraries closing their doors.
Libraries have proven once again how resilient they are, especially during the most challenging of times. Libraries continue to be a key player in the community as connectors to services and resources. Libraries have met the needs of students experiencing distance learning for the first time, adults who suddenly find themselves unemployed and balancing a work-life structure at home with babies and toddlers who aren’t able to share giggles with their friends during storytime, and the community at large, who have lost the ability to stay connected with other human beings during the state’s lockdown.
Our library is a place for education and self-help opportunities; it transforms lives through literacy, and it changes communities by supporting community and civic engagement for over 52,000 residents and neighboring cities. It is a place that welcomes everyone equally, offers visitors a place to stay in touch with their families, friends, and business associates while encouraging users to contribute back to their communities.
With the Placentia Library District responding in the early weeks of March to the concerns of the public and staff regarding Covid-19, the Board moved forward with a modified service plan to ensure those roles could continue. The Placentia Library District began working out of our Community Meeting Room where patrons could still receive passport services, return their items, and request or pick up holds. Staff were given gloves, masks, and disinfectant spray to wipe down returned books with double table spaces and a maximum of ten people in the room at a time. Each day, a new implementation would take place based on the suggestions from Governor Newsom.
During this uncertain time, the Library Director also began sending daily messages to the patrons. These messages brought facts from Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization along with local statistics relating to Covid-19. A library is an information hub; therefore, regardless of it temporarily shrinking in size, the District ensured it did not shrink in its ability to provide knowledge for our community.
Within two weeks of modified services, there was a reported possibility of exposure and staff were immediately put on work-from-home orders. As telecommuting has its own challenges, meeting the needs of the public while having the physical location closed became a significant concern. The Director’s Messages rose to the challenge by sending daily, then weekly, emails through Constant Contact. They allowed the district to continue to inform the public of the district’s closure, virtual services available, and gave factual updates while bringing the human element to the situation.
These messages were met with positive feedback from the public, steady virtual library card applications, increased numbers of followers on social media platforms, and an increase of the district’s opening rate for messages to the public.
This outreach has also allowed a better channel of communication to the public regarding the district’s virtual services, which include virtual storytime on Facebook Live three times a week, literacy tutoring via Zoom, book clubs on Zoom, craft tutorials, a virtual egg hunt, National Library Week’s Share Your Library Story, and so much more! One of the most successful messages was the announcement that district staff would be sewing face masks for Placentia residents in need. From this Director’s Message, the district received 1,000 completed requests that were sewn and mailed by staff to each patron by the end of April.
Our Library District was the first library in Orange County and one of the first libraries in California to quickly take action by adopting resolutions and Covid-19 leave policies to protect our patrons and staff.
Placentia Library district has managed to increasingly reach out to the public, receive positive feedback, give patrons a feeling of comfort with their programs and services, and most importantly, they have become a dependable constant to its patrons during this time: all because of the Director’s Messages actively reflecting the staff’s unrelenting passion to serve the community regardless of circumstance.
Virtual or in-person, the location of the library is irrelevant. Einstein would be amazed at how far the library has expanded beyond a physical structure. The services will remain relevant and stand the test of time. It’s coterie of services would dazzle and delight his inquisitive mind. Whether it’s a pandemic or a recession, there’s one thing communities can count on – libraries.
If you want to see for yourself how their amazing team is responding to the Covid-19 crisis, follow them on Facebook at Placentia Library, Instagram at Placentialib, and at www.placentialibrary.org.