For our series of Local People, Local Stories, Local Impact, we spoke with Ann Nichols, Branch Manager of the King Public Library.
“Our library has always kept hand sanitizer available at the circulation desk for our staff and patrons. Little did we know how important of a role this safety measure would play in keeping our patrons safe during the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic.”- Ann Nichols
How has COVID19 affected the King Public Library?
When I walked out the library doors on March 27th, I sat in my car, and shook my head in denial. I never had imagined that the library doors would be closed to the public. It had been a trying day. I was proud of my staff that day, as we all worked together to provide curbside service to our patrons, while continually cleaning the building, and getting the word out about our many online services. I knew that at some point all libraries in our Northwestern Regional Library System would have to close, so I had been busy providing the staff with work from home tasks, online trainings, and other assignments. We had publicized on our Facebook page for patrons to stock up on books and other materials, just in case.
Everything we were hearing on several news outlets seemed to indicate the elderly were the most vulnerable in our population. The library staff know our senior patrons well. We all were worried for them, wanting to make certain they checked out the books, DVDs, or puzzles they needed to pass the time while we waited out the virus.
We tried to be positive and upbeat, but inside we were like everyone else, concerned for our families, our patrons, and for each other. All of our staff can assist patrons with using their tech devices to check out eBooks from OverDrive, our eBook and audio platform on our NWRL.org website, but our patron’s favorite tech guru is Gretchen Parker, the Assistant Branch Manager at the King Public Library. She has an easy manner and a great smile that makes you feel as though it is as simple as sliding a hot knife through butter. Gretchen had been on the phone almost nonstop during the last few weeks, assisting our patrons with checking out eBooks, or learning how to do it from scratch.
We usually save the books for the Friends of the Library’s book sale, but I felt these books needed new homes right away. We decided the withdrawn books would be placed on carts outside the building.
We would offer the books freely to our patrons. We shared a post on the library’s Facebook and Twitter pages, and within minutes, people were stopping by to select titles. Each person looked so excited.
You would have thought it was Christmas! I remember telling the staff it was the first time I had smiled in days. Smiles are contagious, we all were smiling, the staff and our patrons outside enjoying this special treat.
Can you talk about the services offered online by King Public Library?
During work from home, the staff engaged our patrons online. Programming Assistant Melody Johnson and Gretchen Parker provided online preschool Storytime programs. Melody’s reading of Peep, Peep, Moo! By Doreen Cronin received a shoutout of praise from the State Library of North Carolina, and Mouse’s First Spring by Lauren Thompson, became a new favorite with many youngsters. Programming Assistant Cara Hiatt’s May Flowers Photo Contest with 125 entries . Poems and poem readings were posted during April’s National Poetry Month celebration, Bingo games, an interview with local author, Paula May, and much more has been shared with our patrons near and far from the video link at our nwrl.org website and on the library’s Facebook page.
Virtual programs, which we had seen as a future need, were suddenly thrust upon library staff members all over the United States. The King Public Library staff were as prepared as we possibly could be, with an abundant amount of online training and webinars, shared all over the county.
We were learning everything we could in order to improve services to the public and working to keep our patrons engaged at home. And with this, a new reality came into place; this will now be the platform on which our 2020 Summer Reading program will on take place. It was quite a shock to realize that in-person programming would not be feasible.
The safety and welfare of our patrons always takes priority.
So, as a branch and as a Region, we are developing programs that can be posted virtually on our social media sites, and on our Northwestern Regional homepage.
Our thirteen branches in Alleghany, Stokes, Surry, and Yadkin Counties are working together to set up an array of programs that can be shared among all library patrons. Presenters are being contacted while we all work together to change to a virtual/streaming environment. Big crowd pleasers like Mad Science, Science Tellers, and the NC Zoo are among many that are changing the way they provide programs to our libraries.
Programming staff are still working with possible presenters for all age groups to provide an enriching and entertaining summer for everyone.
Moving forward after COVID19 what sort of programs will be available for adults at King Public Library?
The library anticipates a great need from our newly unemployed population. The Job Lab that the library and Forsyth Tech partner on together, located inside the King Public Library, is eager to help people with preparing resumes, filing online applications, providing unemployment filing assistance, and much more.
Lynn Owens and Cinda Amen, our HRD instructors in the lab prepared a training webinar for all staff members of the NWRL
FTCC has increased the lab hours at the King Public Library from twelve hours a week, to sixteen hours per week.
HRD instructors Lynn Owens and Cinda Amen are ready to help as many individuals as they can when the library is able to open its doors. In order to do this safely, assistance will be made by appointment only. This will be possible by calling the King Public Library at (336) 983-3868 or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, when the library reopens.
What would you like to share with residents who use the King Public Library?
“The most important thing I can share with our patrons is how much we miss them and wish to meet their needs. We realize the library and its services are especially important to our community. You are never too old or too young to learn, or to enjoy the wonder of a book. The library provides that opportunity and much more. The library provides a place of learning, connecting, reading for the joy of it, a refuge from difficult times, a place to start over when seeking a different career path, and a place to come together with purpose. The staff and I feel as though we are out of our element without our patrons. We look forward to serving them again safely and enthusiastically.”