To libraries and everyone else supporting their communities: Thank you.
As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the world, we have found that there has been an increase in interest in our text messaging software. Texting lets organizations communicate quickly while ensuring that social distancing rules are followed. Today, many nonessential businesses around the country have been shuttered and forced to find new ways to reach their customers. Oftentimes, this pushes them to find unique ways to run their day-to-day operations online.
In particular, libraries have been forced to rethink how they provide their services. Not only can they no longer provide patrons with physical books, but also they may not be able to provide the services on which individuals throughout the neighborhood have come to rely, such as WiFi and newspapers. Although many things can switch to online resources, Jessamyn West, an educational technologist, realizes just what patrons might be missing. She say, “What you can’t really get [with online] is that [feeling of] everybody hanging around in a place where nobody is trying to sell you something, and where you can be part of the community and you’re welcome there.”
Numerous libraries across the country are finding new ways to reach out. For example, Alyson Jones, the director of the Altoona Public Library in Wisconsin, is looking into options such as curbside pickup. Others are considering running an electronic library or a books-by-mail program, an option that has been widely accepted by the Orange County Public Library in Florida. According to WebJunction, there are several unique resource opportunities that librarians can adopt during this time. For example, digital library books, online events and online read-aloud times can give patrons the personal touch they crave.
Many libraries have chosen to shut down operations as they have realized that their older patrons could be in harm’s way without their guidance. According to Jennifer Pearson, the director of Marshall County Memorial Library in Tennessee, before shutting down, “We were, at that point, doing more harm than good.” Of course, these choices are never easy as they change the way of life for both patrons and library employees.
Thanks to electronic library books and digital options for communication, libraries can continue reaching patrons during this difficult time. For example, a majority of Americans these days have mobile phones with text messaging capabilities. Texts from their local libraries can direct them to online events or to ebooks that they might like. Libraries can also use Web Widgets with Chat to help patrons who may be having difficulties finding what they need on their Websites. Plus, mobile outreach options let patrons text questions to their local libraries or receive public health alerts or daily motivation during this isolating time.
Regardless of what your library is doing during this time to reach patrons, we salute you. Whether you are turning to a digital library format, keeping your WiFi on for patrons to use in the parking lot or spearheading online events through text messaging, please know that your incredible work is appreciated.