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The Fraser Public Library Evaluates COVID-19, its Services and Moving a Community Forward

An establishment rooted in lending materials out, and provides computer access for
patrons to gain knowledge and education had to temporarily halt services and navigate digital
services out of concern for public health.

On March 24, 2020 the library was shut down to the public following the Stay Home,
Stay Safe order. Unable to lend materials, books and information to the community, the library
had to pour its entire focus on digital services and online databases, while also modifying what
were in-person services to online. Not to mention transpose jobs that were done in the library to
be done at home to keep staff employed.

“Next to managing a fixed budget during COVID, transitioning, on-the-fly, staff duties
while we were closed was an uphill battle,” said library director Lorena McDowell. “This
pandemic has changed how we conduct business, and training and managing staff through it
proved challenging because we don’t know how long this will last.”

During the several month shut down, the Fraser Public Library debuted a new website,
which featured an online chat that connected right to the reference desk and a way for patrons
to apply for a library card online that would give them immediate access to digital databases
the library provides.

Though the library provides several online resources and databases, patron use was
significantly lower than average, which told staff how much in-person access is valued in the
community.

“We had 257 new library card applications between the months of March and October,
and no increase in online database use than normal. Our lowest month in 2020 was zero new
library cards. Yes, zero and I have never seen that before,” McDowell said. “Some of this
reduction was due to the library being closed to the public for several months, during which we
had to set up methods to obtain a card remotely. Also, some of the reduction is likely due to
Summer Reading Club being conducted mostly curbside.”

Summer Reading Club for libraries is a time when many new people come to the library,
including many children to sign up for library cards, and a time of heightened activity
generally. Not so much this year with most of the community electing to stay home out of
concern.

Lower numbers in library use, even with curbside pick-up and limited browsing
appointments, called for staff to find new ways to creatively reach out to the community.

“The good side of this is we have found new ways to provide programming and free
entertainment such as our successful outside movie nights in the fall and Trunk-or-Treat,”
McDowell said. “Our programming received a tremendously positive response from our
patrons, which is helping propel us forward planning for 2021.”

Through all of the bad and good this pandemic has brought, the Fraser Public Library
has noted the popular response to the convenience of online library card applications, curbside
pick-up and online programming, and does plan to offer it post-pandemic.

“This goes without saying, but the library has been through a lot that I never expected to
go through as a director,” McDowell said. “Our staff have been pros at adapting and
overcoming with these challenges that have presented us these past 10 months. They also have
been great with taking care of the patrons and getting them the resources they need.”

The library is continuing to move through December with new programs such as
Cooking Matters, a cooking class co-hosted with Gleaners Community Food Band, which starts
in the new year and the first ever Winter Break Reading Challenge, which starts later this
month. All information for these and more programs can be found on the Fraser Public Library
website.

The Fraser Public Library is open for curbside pick-up Mon. through Thurs. 10 a.m. to 8
p.m. and Fri. through Sat. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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