For libraries, as for the whole country and indeed the world, whether, when, and how to open up safely continues to be the most pressing question on everyone’s mind. To that end the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) partnered with OCLC, the Columbus Metropolitan Library, and the Battelle Memorial Institute (perhaps best known for discovering how to disinfect N95 masks for reuse), to conduct original research into how the COVID-19 virus behaves on library materials. In the meantime, public library advocates caution decisionmakers to move cautiously on reopening or instituting curbside pickup, while academic library leaders consider how best to serve a reopening campus.
In the meantime, libraries continue to creatively serve their communities despite closed buildings, from Boston Public Library’s new book donations and wifi lending to homeless shelters and recovery programs through an array of projects archiving the pandemic experience, to playful offerings such as New York Public Library dropping a new album, Missing Sounds of New York, and Library of Congress testing a Citizen DJ app. Resilient library staff are also learning from previous disasters and applying those lessons to the coronavirus crisis.
We’d say librarians are doing too many things to list, but they’ve been listed, thanks to crowdsourced Work from Home documents for public and academic librarians and archivists. They’re a great source of project ideas for remote employees, and might help leaders protect their staffs from joining the growing list of cities and colleges laying off or furloughing library workers in response to the cost of fighting COVID and falling revenues. For those who have been furloughed, or otherwise economically impacted, the Society of American Archivists has launched a mutual aid fund.
Not surprisingly, use of libraries’ digital collections are through the roof, and we’re still adding booklists of all-electronically-available titles to meet today’s interests and needs, from the escapist de-stressing of cats and post-binge-watching reads to the practical books to battle quarantine sleep problems and titles to work out at home to the sadly needed resources for those facing grief and mortality.
And it’s not just ebooks looking up; despite challenges along the supply chain, print book sales are doing better. And for those tackling their pandemic anxiety via projects, LJ’s Kiera Parrott’s next installment on how to organize your home collection tackles that perennial print problem, weeding. On the whole, the future for books seems strong: while America’s literacy problem is serious, there’s good news—a federal court recently held that literacy is a human right. And celebrities from Levar Burton to Michelle Obama are launching storytimes for adults and children to keep us entertained and book culture front and center.
Fortunately, not everything is about the coronavirus: new magazines still launch and are celebrated, graphic novels continue to grow, and readers still need #OwnVoices titles, such as these 12 with protagonists on the autism spectrum. To fight the blur of one day into the next under lockdown and with big milestone events canceled, libraries marked 4/20 and Earth Day in virtual fashion.
This week LJ marks a major holiday in our own calendar: the annual Movers & Shakers announcements. All this week we are rolling out one grouping a day—two on Wednesday!—profiling a cohort of innovators who, in spite of everything, are leading the field forward. Please check back often and celebrate with them, and with us, on social media using the #LJMovers20 hashtag!
Stay safe and be well,