Libraries are engaged in the methodical capture of information. But they mean so much more to us than that. Libraries connect people to information and research, certainly, but they also connect people to people. They are community centers that do so much more than offer entertainment and education. During the pandemic, our nation’s libraries have provided science-backed data to counteract fake information and have even acted as a mental health resource for the communities they serve. Here’s how libraries have been coping — and helping others cope — with COVID-19.
Stories from the front lines
American Libraries Live recently hosted a chat with librarians around the nation to discover how their institutions have responded to these uncertain times. What they shared was the resilience of a community of service professionals who stepped up to deliver. For example:
- Libraries in Tuscany, Italy, focused on counteracting fake news related to the virus.
- Libraries in King County, Washington, shifted their monies to the purchase of digital books and offered online prerecorded story times to the public.
- Los Angeles County offered remote library access to the homeless.
- St. Louis County, Missouri, offered iPads with preloaded PBS content to low-income students.
- In Arizona, the Pima County Public Library collaborated with community groups to distribute food for kids who lost access to school lunches.
These were just a few of the stories of how our nation’s librarians stepped up in the face of adversity. But some libraries went above and beyond by increasing efforts to provide mental health support to their patrons.
Mental health and your library system
Public libraries have a long history of providing services to their communities. Over the years, librarians have gone beyond book lending to take on other roles to help people navigate complex social services or to provide tutoring to students. While these are just two examples, the Institute of Museum and Library Services reports on some organizations that stepped up even more during the pandemic to offer mental health resources to their communities:
- One North Carolina library offers a free virtual session with a licensed mental health therapist during the pandemic.
- The California Mental Health Initiative helped train library staff to provide compassionate service focused on mental health first aid.
- Colorado libraries started making phone calls to seniors to update them on library services, see how they were coping, and ask if they needed help.
These efforts illustrate the scrappy nature of the library profession and the people who do this work. Together, these institutions have been rethinking the profession and retooling it in previously unimaginable ways.
Rethinking the library service profession
Where do libraries go from here? Public libraries have a long history of providing a variety of services to their community. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries are rethinking these roles.
COVID highlighted for many librarians how much the community relies on their resources. Whether it’s using the technology, homework help, advice on job applications, book lending, or other services, our nation’s system of libraries provide a valuable service.
Sheridan celebrates our nation’s libraries and their dedication to serving their communities. The Sheridan team exemplifies that kind of dedication for the clients we serve. Contact your Sheridan representative to learn how we can help make your publishing venture a success.