Vicksburg Library reopens, copes with COVID-19

New staff member, Teresa Diewald, works on quarantining returned items so they can be circulated once more in the Vicksburg District Library.

By Adrianne M. Schinkai, Head of Reference and Circulation Services

On June 22nd, the Vicksburg District Library opened its doors to the public after being closed for 99 days by the executive orders issued by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. However, this did not mean librarians had ceased providing services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The library website was modified to provide information about the coronavirus, news of the pandemic that affected the local area and resources all ages could use to pass the time, from playing online games for free to touring museums virtually on the web. Librarians even held a range of virtual programming through social media.

Now that doors are open once again, staff are excited, yet cautious, to have their patrons back. “I was nervous about reopening and what the reaction would be from our patrons. It was hard being closed on our end,” said Youth Librarian Stephanie Willoughby. “I have been so thankful for our patrons who appreciate what we have to offer.”

Library Director Eric Hansen shared Willoughby’s sentiments. “I feel optimistic about the library’s mission during the pandemic. Our library has been serving the community in one form or another for more than 100 years. Under difficult circumstances a community can definitely benefit from the information and assistance shared … I cannot help wondering how our library staff assisted residents during the Spanish influenza epidemic a century ago.”

While patrons have been returning items kept in their possession during the closure, many are not as swift to enter the library just yet. While activity has been slow, it has still been productive as librarians choose to continue holding virtual programming or offer take home activities for children instead of activities on site. This is the case with the Library’s Summer Reading Program.

“This year’s program has the tag line, ‘Online, Outside, and Offsite,’” Willoughby said. “We are offering Curbside Crafts, which is a bag of fun craft projects for elementary aged children. Tweens and teens can participate in online book clubs. Story time is also online for our youngest patrons.”

Limited services that patrons are seeing from Vicksburg are very normal for libraries across the nation. All of them have one utmost priority while providing service during the pandemic: the safety of anyone who enters the library. Limited services for Vicksburg include toys being pulled from the children’s area, no circulation or display of periodicals and limited use of patron computers. Interlibrary loan services provided by the Michigan Electronic Library Catalog have also been suspended until further notice.

“Public libraries have always had a responsibility to offer no-cost or low-cost entertainment, programming, and information to citizens in the community,” Hansen said. “But at this time we have to take additional steps to promote the health of the citizens that we serve. That means implementing the guidance of state and federal agencies telling us to promote the use of personal protective equipment like masks, face shields and clear acrylic dividers.”

Such steps include adhering to Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-147, that face masks and coverings are mandatory in places of public service. In addition, the Vicksburg fire chief issued a maximum occupancy of 25 persons at a time for the library.

“I recommend that patrons feel confident visiting our library,” added Hansen firmly. “We are taking steps to provide valuable services that people can use during a time when there is a lot of uncertainty. I also recommend that patrons contact us via phone or e-mail if you have any questions about receiving services.” The Vicksburg District Library staff can be contacted at info@vicksburglibrary.org, via phone at (269) 649-1648, or by accessing the website at http://www.vicksburglibrary.org.

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