Home News COVID-19 Situation Small library staff stays on the go during closure

Small library staff stays on the go during closure

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Juno Ogle Photo Roswell Public Library Director Enid Costley shows the "quarantine" shelf for materials that have been returned to the library in its Library on the Go program. When books and other materials are returned, they are cleaned and set aside on a shelf for a couple of days to help prevent spreading the coronavirus.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The Roswell Public Library building has been closed to the public for more than a month due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has not been a quiet place, Library Director Enid Costley said.

“I would like to say it’s been really quiet in here, we’ve just been sitting down not doing anything, but that’s far from the truth,” Costley said Tuesday morning.

All but three of the library’s 18 staff members have been reassigned to assist other offices in the city, and Costley and her remaining two employees have been so busy, she couldn’t remember if any activities had been planned to commemorate National Library Week this week.

“I’m sure we have, and they just kind of went out the window because things just kind of happened quickly,” she said.

The library, along with other city buildings and facilities, closed to the public on March 18 in response to the pandemic but has continued to offer materials to the public through its “Library on the Go” program launched the following week.

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The service is offered from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and allows patrons to check out materials by calling in their requests and arranging a pick-up time in the alley near the book drop.

Requests range from specific titles of books or DVDs to more general collections compiled by the staff, Costley said, such as books for a 4-year-old girl who likes ballet or an 8-year-old who likes sports.

“So we are circulating some books, not as much as we tend to,” she said.

That is in part due to the limited staff, but also because they are taking steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus when materials are returned.

“We are asking people to return all items though our book drop, and then we clean them off. Then we put them in quarantine for a couple of days,” she said.

Library on the Go is something people seem to like, so Costley is making plans for the service to continue even after the city is able to open up its buildings to the public again.

“The plan is to pull out the book drop and put in a kind of delivery window there so that people can drive up and we can put the books into a service box,” she said. New book returns would be built on the east side and in the lobby.

Other changes in the library are already underway. The staff has been taking advantage of not having people in the building to do some rearranging.

“We have also pretty much moved every single item in the library. We moved where the young adult collection is, and we moved our Spanish collection, expanded our room for our large print collecting, shifted our fiction collection, evened out our shelves and did some massive weeding of our nonfiction collection,” she said.

The circulation desk will have sneeze guards installed to help prevent the spread of the virus and the IT department is investigating ways to make the public computers easier to clean, she said.

Artist Tasia Ramage, who painted a koi pond on the floor of the children’s section in February, has returned to expand that project along the windows.

The summer reading program will be online with prizes of school and art supplies, Costley said.

A big program she is working on is implementing an online school readiness program that will help promote milestones in child development. The activities were written by Betsy Diamant-Cohen, creator of Mother Goose on the Loose, an award-winning early literacy program that uses rhymes, songs and instruments to foster speech development, motor coordination and other developmental skills.

While the changes are exciting, Costley said she does have concerns. The library was already facing a tight budget before the pandemic and made the hard decision to cut many of the databases they subscribed to. The pandemic has brought the likelihood of budget cuts, she said.

“We did get notification from the city that our budget would be cut further this year and it would be cut substantially next year,” Costley said.

She said she will likely call on the library’s supporting organizations for more help in the near future.

“One of the things that we are fortunate with the library is that we have a very good Friends of the Library and we have a library foundation. Unfortunately, I’m going to be asking them to step up and help us out a bit more,” she said.

One project in the works, the bookmobile, might have to be delayed, Costley said.

The city council approved the use of general obligation bond funds to purchase and equip a delivery van that could provide books and other materials for those who can’t travel to the library.

“That’s one of the big unknowns,” Costley said of the bookmobile. “Now I’m looking at using the GO bond money to put in the service window and the outdoor depositories,” she said.

Costley told the city council in February the library has about $148,000 it can use from the bonds approved by state voters in 2016 and 2018 for public and school libraries.

A vacant staff position has been held open so the library can hire an outreach librarian for the program.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen with my personnel budget, so I don’t know what’s going to happen to my bookmobile person. If I don’t have a bookmobile person, it’s kind of hard to have a bookmobile,” she said.

Libraries have been quick to adapt to changing times, though, Costley said, and she anticipates that when the library can reopen, the staff will examine how it will best be able to serve the post-pandemic community.

Helping small businesses and people hunting for jobs will be primary among the areas that will see an increased need, she said.

“If we can do it within the scope of our purpose, then I want to be able to do that. I want to make it easy for people to find information and resources, and that needs to be what we focus on, not trying to do roadblocks but just keep people safe, but also provide knock-your-socks-off service,” she said.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.