It has been eleven weeks since John Jermain last had patrons in the stacks. That day, March 13, was a blur of sanitizer and reference questions that left us with bare shelves and raw hands.
On June 2, at long last, my colleagues will begin to return—most for the first time in nearly three months—as the region begins to rebuild after this first wave of Covid-19. Librarians, without exception in my experience, have a respect for facts, and we dedicate our lives to sifting through what is false and misleading and just plain wrong. As a result, we sometimes feel that if we just had more information we could make a better choice, or a more effective decision. But now—it’s not that data has failed us, exactly, it’s just that none of us know what the future holds. And yet: we need to move on.
Our way forward, subject to revision and change, is described in our reopening plan, which builds on the data we do have from the CDC, OSHA, local and state government agencies, the American Library Association, the Department of Labor, and, well, you get the idea. Still, the only thing I am sure of is that our plans will change as we learn more.
During our first few weeks back in the building we will remain closed to the public. We will be checking in books (thousands of them have been out in the world during this time). And we will be reconfiguring our spaces for staff and patron safety. Throughout the summer, we’ll continue our innovative online programming, including Summer Reading Clubs for all ages. And we’ll continue to provide free digital materials and free library cards.
I’m excited about a new Plaza Pick-Up service that will start in a few weeks—our version of take-out. And while we’ve always had outdoor seating available, this summer we’ll space the tables and chairs further apart. We’ve even boosted our Wi-Fi signal so you can take advantage of our free wireless without coming into the building.
We hope that within a few months we will again be able to open our doors to patrons. While I wait, I’ll be studying data, and searching for facts—but also turning to the stories of the past, including one of my favorite fairy tales, “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” Have you read it? The hero is a heroine, clueless but brave, and she makes a big mistake, and in the end it all turns out well enough, although much is lost and changed along the way. I thought of this story when I saw this photo of John Jermain, taken by our board member Bob Weinstein (who is also “behind” the Wear a Mask banners you see around town). Please note that the library is exactly where it is supposed to be: West of the Moon.
Catherine Creedon, Director email@example.com