How do you plan to celebrate the one year shutdown? Yes someone asked that question in a Facebook group with libraries. My first thought – why would anyone want to celebrate that day? So instead I decided to reflect on what happened the week leading up to March 13th when most of the country shutdown.
Another Library Director recently used the phrase “panic week” to describe March 9-13, 2020. Looking back, that is exactly what it felt like. A decision made on Monday morning with the information at hand, was either contradicted or not enough by Tuesday morning. I met every day that week with Managers in the Library system. We pulled toys out of the children’s area on Monday. On Tuesday, we decided to stop all programming and meeting room use because it was recommended that we practice three feet of social distancing and avoid crowds. On Wednesday, we stopped all visits to daycares and long term care facilities trying to protect our most vulnerable community members.
Then came Wednesday evening. I was out to dinner with my husband celebrating our anniversary. My phone suddenly blew up. I received texts, emails, and phone calls from community leaders, library staff, and library directors across Kentucky. Boone County Schools announced they were closing until April 20th due to the pandemic and would be moving to virtual learning. I think I still owe my husband an anniversary dinner.
The school’s announcement had implications for Boone County Public Library. Would I have enough staff to operate? How many parents would not be able to work because they needed to stay home with their child(ren). Would the Library see a large influx of children into the buildings needing an internet connection? Would children need to stay at the Library while parents worked? And, many other questions.
The Library managers and I spent Thursday morning crafting a response to how we would handle large numbers of children in the Library while maintaining the three feet of social distancing and following the Library’s Unattended Child Policy. I talked with the school district and the health district, asking questions to try to understand what was happening. All through this week, Library Directors across Kentucky and the Greater Cincinnati Region shared information, asked questions, and panicked together. Then on Friday, libraries in Kentucky were told by the State Library to follow what our local school district was doing. For BCPL, that meant we closed our doors at 6:00 pm, Friday, March 13th. The irony of Friday the 13th was not lost to me. It also meant we were closed until at least April 20th.
I spent that weekend making notes and creating lists of what we needed to do to continue serving the community and to keep all systems at the Library running as needed. On Monday morning, March 15th, the Managers and I worked through my notes and figured out what I missed. I am very proud of the staff at the Library. They pivoted by that Monday afternoon to an all virtual organization. I then spent the next two months working to get the Library open to in-person use. We are still not back to normal, but we are moving in the right direction.
It has been a year. We have a whole new vocabulary. We have all learned so much. Because of these experiences, I feel more connected to my family, the community, and the staff at the Library. And there is a feeling of hope because there are three approved vaccines. What will you reflect on as we mark the one year anniversary of the pandemic shutdown?