By Alex Arthun, MLIS, Collection Development Librarian, Ingram Library Services
When I worked for a public library system in Pennsylvania, we occasionally joked about how great it would be to work in a library without any patrons to interrupt us.
Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 crisis, what was once sarcastic break room banter has now become an unsettling reality.
On March 17th, the American Library Association released a statement urging all libraries to close to the public in order to protect our communities during these uncertain times. Our greatest strength – being open to and serving everyone – is currently a liability.
In addition to promoting your digital collections, here are some ideas for library staff that suddenly find themselves with empty buildings or stuck at home. These projects will ultimately benefit your patrons when we are able to open to the public again.
If you and your household are healthy AND have access to your closed facilities:
Disinfect as much as you can with the supplies you have. You know your library’s most touched hotspots: door handles, bathroom fixtures, computer keyboards, etc. However, our browsing business model encourages patrons to touch a lot of our merchandise. It may also be a good idea to wipe down some of your most popular sections like bestsellers, DVDs, and board books.
If weeding projects get pushed to the backburner at your library, now could be a good time to give your collection a thorough gleaning. Libraries frequently report that circulation increases after weeding, so when your library reopens, patrons will appreciate having your best collection front and center.
Shifting projects can vary widely depending on your goals.
If you’re weeding, you’ll probably need to move some items around to even out the shelves. That’s a fairly easy one.
When I would weed our adult collections, inevitably more books on the topmost and bottommost shelves would be on my list due to low circulation than those in the middle 3 or 4. We couldn’t do it for all our collections, but we received several positive comments from patrons who had a hard time seeing or reaching these shelves when we shifted items off of them. If you have the room to make these adjustments, now may be a good time to give it a try.
I’ve also done some large-scale shifts for public libraries I worked in. Patron demand changes over time, and collections that once needed a lot of shelf space might be taking up room that could be better used by a different collection. Has your print reference collection shrunk considerably as resources become available digitally? Maybe it’s time to move them somewhere else and repurpose those shelves or that floor space. Is one section constantly overcrowded but in high demand? (This happened with our graphic novels all the time.) Maybe you can find a different space for it by swapping it with a less in-demand collection.
You may not want to make a lot of changes, because the public will probably be looking for some normalcy in the coming weeks and months. But in the long run, some change will help you better meet the needs of your community.
This was a project my former libraries never had time to get around to. If you can stick a laptop on a cart and scan everything into your ILS, you’ll be in much better shape to assist patrons who are looking for specific titles. Your catalog will accurately reflect what’s actually on your shelves.
If you are healthy AND working from home:
Ordering, or Building Lists to Order When You Reopen
iPage is up, our warehouses are still sending out shipments, and our librarians are still here to support your collection development needs! If weeding means you need to order replacements, our complimentary curated lists can help you fill those gaps. If you need something more in-depth or customized, email our team of librarians. We are here to help in any way we can.
Early on in my career, I signed up for way more webinars than I ever had time to attend. And I rarely got around to the archives either.
Sites like Web Junction are a great resource to get some free professional development in.
If you feel ill:
Stay home and rest! We hope you feel better soon! While resting, follow along with @TheLibraryLife community on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. With industry news, relatable humor, and exclusive giveaways, our TLL community is there to share, celebrate, and inspire librarians and beyond. So, go click follow because we'd love to have you!
As always, libraries are resilient entities. We will continue to be essential parts of our communities, even in these hard times. We will get through this.