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April 20, 2020

National Library Week

Whether it feels like it or not, it's National Library Week!

Although those of us who have a little more gray in our hair have experienced numerous National Library Weeks, I think it's safe to say that this is one will rank as the most out-of-the-ordinary observance of all. 

Obviously, none of the usual hoopla and programming and celebratory events will be taking place amidst this pandemic.  Even the American Library Association's original theme for the week—"Find Your Place at the Library"—now has morphed (brilliantly, I think) into "Find the Library at Your Place," a fitting acknowledgment of how librarians continue service in new ways for people doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19 by staying at home.

Building or no building, I thought the week still deserved some sort of a special touch.  If you have not yet seen it, you might get a chuckle viewing my 2020 National Library Week welcome on the State Library Twitter feed.

It is true—I am struck by the countless ways librarians and library staff have learned and adapted to serving the public without the benefit of a building and a physical collection. 

(And all joking aside, no, the tux is not my mandated work-from-home wardrobe.) 

Adapting to Our New Normal

The ways librarians have adapted during this crisis raise some interesting questions about what lies ahead for library services.  We know that libraries have evolved over time as physical spaces and centers for communities.  But post-pandemic, what should and will our service models be?  Moreover, how will our public—our customers—respond in America's "new normal?"

Well, for starters, we don't yet know when this re-opening phase will begin much less have a solid expectation of people's reactions.  Still, it behooves us to take advantage of this pause in physical services to read, reflect, and re-imagine what might be.

I came across an interesting piece in Publisher's Weekly by Sari Feldman which raises many of these same questions and concerns.  Some of you may recall that Ms. Feldman was a featured speaker several years ago at the Pennsylvania Library Association's Annual Conference when she was executive director of the Cuyahoga County Public Library in Cleveland.  She also has the dual distinction of having served as president of the Public Library Association and, six years later, as president of the American Library Association.

She has a well-earned reputation as a visionary and out-of-the-box thinker, qualities that she brought to her library day job and to her national leadership roles.  Her column, Public Libraries and the Pandemic, is thought-provoking and, in my view, well worth reading.  There is valuable information here for all of us.

The Future

Here's some food for thought as we embark upon Week Six. 

  • Closed Until Further Notice - We know libraries are closed until further notice. (Please check your websites to verify that you do not say closed until April 30.  We are closed until we are advised that it is safe for our staff and those we serve to do so.)

  • Summer Learning Program Modifications - Summer is quickly approaching and our state's youth will be looking for things to do, and to prevent the well-known summer slide, some of those activities must include reading and learning.  Even during a pandemic, our public libraries need to provide these opportunities for our state's youth.  So, if you haven't started thinking about what a virtual summer learning program might look like, (or even a summer learning program where gatherings of people are strictly limited or prohibited), now is the time to make those plans.  If we are fortunate to end this crisis sooner, then everyone can use their original plans.  But I think we all recognize that our original plans are going to need major modifications.

  • Engage with Your Colleagues – There are a lot of opportunities to talk and learn from each other.  Take advantage of the many training events that our office and others are offering.  Also, participate in the Pennsylvania Library Association's (PaLA) open forum call-in sessions to discuss how your library is offering remote services, ask questions about federal program requirements, discuss plans for summer learning programs, or chat about other matters (PaLA sessions are open to everyone, not just members.)

Thank You for What You Are Doing

Please know how much I want to shout from the rooftop the amazing work carried out by librarians all across this state.  I was reminded again last week just how unprecedented these times are, and how remarkable it is that our vital work has moved ahead despite how suddenly this crisis came upon us and despite new hurdles, low and high, that need to be cleared seemingly every day. 

In ways small and large, you are making it happen.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart…to the top of my roof. 

But even if I should head up there for a shout-out, I doubt you'll hear it.  I'll be wearing a mask.

Please be safe and well today and throughout this National Library Week.

Information and Questions

Check out our Guidance and Resources for Public Libraries website page for issues related to COVID-19. The page also has links to:

Information and future guidance related to library services will be announced on the Guidance and Resources for Public Libraries and via our statewide email distribution lists.

Questions about COVID-19 issues should be directed to the Pennsylvania Department of Education's emergency response account at:

 

Glenn R. Miller, Deputy Secretary & Commissioner for Libraries