The Merrickville Public Library is pushing through the challenges of COVID-19 to continue to provide programs and services to the community. Librarian, Mary-Kate Laphen, says COVID-19 has made things more challenging and, although the Library is open for its regular hours, it is not as busy as usual. They would normally get an after-school crowd coming in, which isn’t happening, as families are choosing to stick close to home.
Even so, Mary-Kate is still working hard at bringing much needed programs and services to the community. The Library has partnered with Sustainable Merrickville-Wolford to build a seed library for the next growing season, so people can have help starting their own garden. Mary-Kate says they are asking people to save seeds from this year’s garden and bring them into the Library in a labeled envelope for people to pick up next year. “Vegetables are great; but we will also take flowers,” she says.
Over the Summer, Mary-Kate was running an outdoor story-time for kids; but now that the weather is getting colder, she is looking at moving it inside. She thinks the upstairs area of the Library is spacious enough for children to be physically distanced while listening to the story. Even if the in-person story times do continue into the Fall, Mary-Kate is still hosting online story-times for those who feel more comfortable watching from home, which can be accessed through their website. There are lots of online story times floating around on the internet already; but she thinks it adds something special coming from the local library. “If kids recognize the person, it has a little bit of a different flavour to it,” she says.
For adults, the library is planning on starting up a new virtual book club to be facilitated through Zoom. They are also hoping to start their very popular Off the Shelf program back up virtually, with adults doing short readings from their favourite books. Mary-Kate hopes they will be able to do some special readings for holidays like Halloween and Christmas this year.
The Library is not only using their Zoom account to facilitate their own programs: it is available for any community group to use. Library staff are available to help set up the meetings and guide library users through the process of using the platform. “It’s like hosting meetings in our meeting room; but now it’s moved online”.
In lieu of their regular Halloween programming, the Library is offering green screen photos by appointment. Mary Kate says the kids can come in costume, and then they will be able to pick a background for the image, once the photo is taken. “We’ve been doing this at the Firefighter’s Halloween party for the last few years and it’s been quite popular,” Mary Kate says. The Library will also be offering some Halloween activities that kids can do with their families.
Mary-Kate is always open to ideas from the community about programming that they might be able to offer, although she does note that it will probably have to be done virtually for the rest of the year. “It’s going to be difficult for inside programming until 2021”.
Library hours may change slightly, once daylight savings comes into effect, so it is open earlier in the afternoon. Computers are available for use and Mary-Kate welcomes anyone working from home who needs a change in scenery to come in and use their space. All pandemic safety precautions are in place, including mandatory face masks, hand sanitizer, and physical distancing. Any returned books are also placed in quarantine for 72 hours, as is the protocol in many libraries across the province. For those who still feel uncomfortable visiting the Library, they are continuing to facilitate porch pick-up for people who want to order books over the phone or online. “We’re just trying to make it work for people”.
While Mary-Kate hopes there won’t be another shut down, she is continually monitoring the situation as we enter the second wave of the pandemic. She wants to assure people that the Library remains open for now, and that they are there to help and provide services to the community. “Get in touch and we will let you know what is going on. Some municipal services are closed; but the library is not one of them.”