Whether we like it or not, the world in which we are currently living—sore throat, mask, test, repeat—is not going to change in the foreseeable future. So, it is up to each one of us to make this “new normal” better than before. What does this mean in the library world?
Hopefully, COVID has taught us to be more accessible—or at the very least, loosen our requirements for access. Maybe your library initiated an online registration tool or simply mailed paper registration forms to patrons’ homes. Is it feasible to keep these accommodations? Doubting Debbie (I mean no disrespect to anyone named Deborah) will say, “The library is back to its full schedule of hours. There is no reason why we need to keep offering this service.” But what if your pre-COVID hours didn’t work for the person’s schedule? They may work multiple jobs or lack reliable transportation. However, once they have their library card they can access all your online resources when their schedule allows. Do a cost vs. reward analysis to see if it is worth keeping. My guess is if you have chosen librarianship as a profession, you will find a way to efficiently offer this service to your community.
On the flip side, look for processes, programs, or policies that can be updated or weeded—“because we’ve always done it that way” no longer holds water. Are you still keeping paper copies of patron information already stored electronically? Does your program lineup look similar to that from the 1950s? Do you offer a virtual option for meetings and programs? Does your cell phone policy limit use to certain areas due to fear of disturbing other users? Are your bathrooms still gender specific? Be brave enough to be uncomfortable and your patrons will thank you!
Our communities, whether they are large universities, bucolic towns, or tiny hamlets, are all composed of smaller sections that need to work together in order to create a dynamic, cohesive unit. That means we all need to put our egos aside, and maybe even that argument that happened three town managers ago, to find a way to work together. Take the initiative and sit next to the person who rubs you the wrong way at the next meeting. You may discover some small similarity on which you can build a relationship that will benefit not just the library, but the community at large. Now can be a considerable time of growth. It will require very little, if any money, but a great deal of dedication and enthusiasm.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.”
Director, Burnham Memorial Library
(This letter was first published in the November 2022 VLA News email newsletter, sent quarterly to Vermont Library Association members.)