We continue our series of Local People, Local Stories, Local Impact, with Joan Sherif from Northwest Regional Library.
The NWRL has branches in Danbury, Walnut Cove and King and are currently closed, but offer a wide variety of options to residents to advance knowledge, strengthen our communities and inspire diversity.
To read our story about the Walnut Cove Public Library click here. To read our story about the King Public Library click here. To read our story about the Danbury Public Library click here.
How has COVID19 affected the NWRL?
With the Governor’s announcement in March, we closed all libraries to the public and provided curbside service until April 1 when we had to discontinue it. It was very popular, and it was very hard for the staff to stop serving the public in person which is our goal. We were very fortunate that the Regional Board approved all staff working from home.
At first, it was almost surreal since we were closing our doors to the public and that has always been the opposite of what we try to do. After the initial shock wore off, the staff swung into action. We began virtual communication with all libraries (Stokes, Surry, Alleghany, and Yadkin) which has been a lifeline for us to stay in touch. We are using Google Classroom and Meet. We formed three teams on priority issues to get input from all staff and further collaborate. The teams meet weekly, and there is good discussion and some good outcomes.
Since the initial closing, staff has worked from home with catch up work, continuing education, and re-inventing how library services are delivered. It did not take long for staff to jump on many webinars that will help all staff do an even better job now and in the future. We have transformed all services online and now provide even more virtual services than ever.
We added new tabs to our website (www.nwrl.org) to include information on CO-VID 19, employment resources, and remote services.
Anyone with checked out materials was asked to hold onto books, DVD’s, and audiobooks until we re-open with no overdue fines.
People can now get a temporary card online as well.
Our staff stepped up to the challenge. Although we had some virtual programs before, the staff has taken hold of the possibilities and are offering online storytimes, readings from Harry Potter, fairy tales, celebration of Earth Day, book talks, and much more.
And, I think that we have just begun! The response has been excellent with many comments about how people are not only enjoying seeing their library workers but also enjoying the programs.
Free learning resources available on www.nwrl.org.
Since not everyone has wifi at home, we are encouraging folks to use the outside wifi from library parking lots. We have seen an increase of usage and are glad to provide the service especially now.
The staff have been great and risen to the occasion. I think that we all have learned so much about ourselves and our communities that will be continued after we are able to open up fully to the public.
How will NWRL continue these services for Stokes residents?
We have all become aware of how we can develop remote and virtual services to a greater extent. Staff are building on what they know about online services (including NC LIVE databases and NC Kids Digital) and learning more at an exponential rate! It seems like everyday there is a new find, and talent is emerging!
Please visit www.nwrl.org and check out the Virtual Programs.
We have discussed more online services as well as asynchronous ones such as story walks and scavenger hunts that kids can do with their families or each other and get outdoors.
These services and others will become part of what NWRL libraries do.
Can you share anything positive from this situation we are all facing?
I think that we all agree that there have been many positives from the CO-VID19 crisis. Although it is a hard and scary time for all of us, I think that we have all found a new resilience and hope for the future.
Our staff is working even more closely together and supporting each other even more. We realize that we all are in this together with our communities and truly believe that we will be stronger and better at the other end of it.
We know that many services that have started will be regular parts of library services. We have learned much about ourselves, each other, and our organization. Although we are planning for (and very much looking forward) to the day when we can reopen to the public, we know that we are stronger and better and have learned some very valuable lessons about ourselves and our communities. We are even more aware of the importance of the essential value of our libraries to each community.
Not only are libraries a place for books, Audio/visual, information, and programs but also they are places for human connection.
In a survey that is posted on the website about what people miss most about their libraries and services that they would like to see, we are seeing that people often say that they miss the staff.
Library workers are community helpers and although the way we are helping has changed since the beginning of the stay at home order, we are continuing on a different level that we will continue as we grow and change. The library is online and in person.
-Joan Sherif, Northwestern Regional Library
Information regarding the Northwestern Regional Library can be found online here