by Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (June 13, 2020) – When the world went into stay-at-home mode in mid-March, everything from schools to stores to offices closed in an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19. The Lansing Library also closed its doors to patrons. But even though people were no longer permitted in the building, library staff were still hard at work serving the public.
For a long while, books couldn’t be checked out or returned (curbside pick-up and drop off service started on June 2), but frequent e-newsletters, ZOOM story times, Facebook live tutorials, online crafts, trivia sessions, and other activities kept patrons connected and entertained.
“I would like folks to know that library staff has worked hard during the stay at home order to provide our patrons with things to do. Many creative minds developed programs and gathered resources to share with our residents,” said Debbie Albrecht, Library Director. “Every day our home page on our website has had interesting topics for exploration. Our adult, children, and teen programs provided interesting activities.”
Youth Department Head Emily Laidly said that the story times, which also included a bilingual session, were well-received. “We’ve been taking the downtime to learn more about how to make our programs accessible to patrons of all abilities. We created social stories about going to the library, choice boards for using the library, and visual schedules for our programs. We hope these additions and more will make the library more accessible for patrons of differing abilities,” she said. “We’ve also been preparing for the renovation of the youth department. Sadly, we won’t fully open the youth department until after construction ends. We will be getting a whole new teen space, digital maker labs, and much more.”
Head of Technology Kelli Staley, who normally puts together a periodic newsletter for the library, began putting out email blasts frequently with information on available online services as well as other tidbits that might be of interest to patrons. “It was important during the close of the library’s physical space to remain engaged with our users and to make sure they knew our digital space was still open to serve their information and entertainment needs,” Staley explained. “The e-newsletters allowed for sharing our usual digital resources, and also the temporary digital resources as generous vendors extended special offers during the COVID-19 crisis, such as unprecedented access to Ancestry Library Edition from home, which continues through the end of June.”
While in-person programs couldn’t continue, library staff made great efforts to bring programs to the patrons. “As the closure of the physical space impacted in-library events, we shared free classes, lectures, theatre performances, fun activities for the kids and more. It wasn’t all fun though. As stay-at-home orders were extended, it became evident that some of our users would need unemployment resources, income tax resources, stimulus check information, the link to complete the 2020 Census and DIY Mask tutorials, so we shared those resources as well,” said Staley. “As the library began to create online programming on Facebook, YouTube, and via Zoom, we invited people to join us for those events. We were also able to announce updates to item due dates (June 22), library card expiration dates (extended until July 4), curbside pickup, summer reading for all ages, and geocaching.”
While the full re-opening of the library will be dependent on state guidelines, things are moving a little closer to normal with the return of book check-outs, although patrons still can’t go inside to pick them out. You can request a book by placing a hold through the catalog online at www.lansingpl.org, through the SWAN app, or by calling the library at 708-474-2447.
“The library might have been closed physically, but the staff did a tremendous job keeping connected to the community with virtual events. Dan ‘On the Lawn’ held weekly trivia contest and there were tech programs to help people learn technical skills,” said Sara Iosue, Head of the Information Department. “With baseball on hold we offered Baseball in the Movies through ZOOM, presented by Steve Frenzel from Marquee Movies. Laughter Yoga presented by Tanaz Bamboat demonstrated the importance of laughter through ZOOM. There was a genealogy webinar. Staff wrote pen pal letters to residents of St. Anthony’s of Lansing.”
The shift in operations to being entirely online is something that may shape future programming and resources at the library. “Going forward we will offer more virtual events. The ‘Make It’ classes will now be a take-and-go craft for adults. Adult Summer reading is a BINGO card, pretty much finding things we have right here in town,” said Iosue. “The curbside service has been doing well. We get to visit patrons, even if it is from a distance, when bringing out their hold items. We look forward to opening the doors and welcoming everyone inside. We do miss our patrons.”
The Lunch Bus is returning this summer, delivering meals on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10:55–11:30am through August 14. Each day two lunches will be given to anyone under age 18. Parents or caregivers may pick up for their children. Pick-up is on School Street by the courtyard door, and recipients may park in the library lot and then get in line, which is marked, for pick-up. Masks and social distancing are required. There will be no seating to eat at the library this year.
The Lansing Public Library is located at 2750 Indiana Avenue in Lansing, Illinois.