‘New normal’ for libraries means new resources are introduced

Libraries are hubs for resources, but with the pandemic, they are creating new ways to serve the public. From call-in services to virtual interaction, local librarians are getting creative. 

Whether remote or in person, returning to school presents challenges to students who lack the proper resources to study adequately. Working students or students with children may find it difficult to utilize the services offered during the limited open hours of local libraries. Campus libraries, while less restricted, are not operating at full capacity either. 

Other students who prefer to study online minimize their risk of exposure; however, they may need student resources or activities to fill the void left by social distancing.

Ted Piening, access and reserves student manager at SIUE’s Lovejoy Library, said that the most difficult part is adapting to an at-home, online presence.

 “[We have been] developing procedures to provide materials to patrons safely and setting up easy access online,” Piening said. “There have been upgrades made to the databases to make searching topics easier for students.”

Matthew Paris, education librarian at Lovejoy, said while less students have been using in-person resources, such as visiting librarians, they can still get help virtually.  

“With 80 percent of the courses online, it has lowered foot traffic significantly,” Paris said. “We have a chat service that people can log into with employees waiting to respond. If an assistant isn’t available, you can still submit your questions. All questions will be responded to within 24 hours. A high number of students are coming in to connect to their classes or Blackboard.”

While open, Lovejoy has limited staff working on-site, adhering to capacity guidelines put forth by the state, enforcing masks and social distancing in efforts to assist students in any way they can. Rooms can be reserved for safe study space and accessing online classes or Zoom meetings privately. A children’s corner situated next to a computer bank keeps children safely entertained and helps some parents who lack daycare access research. Students and faculty can check out materials prior to arriving to minimize contact. Lovejoy also offers a variety of limited services to the off-campus community.

Rebecca Harper, library director of The Learning Resource Center at the SIUE East St. Louis Center, has been developing new ways of interacting with her community to keep them informed of programming, resources and outreach available. They are closed to the public but the community can request library materials for curbside pick up. They also are offering free print services.

Hoping to help the public any way they can, the center developed new Zoom programs and shifted others to a virtual experience on Facebook. 

“We more than doubled the people on our Facebook page when the pandemic hit,” Harper said.

The LRC has increased community involvement behind closed doors to offer many of its in-person programs online right now. Programs include financial planning, resume building, online children’s programming and distributing activity kits aimed at children. In the future, they hope to reach out to the senior community as well. On Tech Tuesday, staff members assist the public with questions about tech issues, from uploading documents to printing from cell phones.

Christine Gerrish, library director of Glen Carbon Centennial Library offers Zoom classes ranging from knitting to virtual yoga to help keep the community involved. They also host a story time and book club chat virtually.

“There are online resources that patrons can access, such as the 24-hour databases, e-books and research help available,” Gerrish said.

The library is closed to the public but can assist with curbside deliveries and answer questions Monday through Saturday on a limited schedule. 

Students who wish to access services only offered to card-holders may apply for free library cards at their local libraries, or pay for library cards outside their districts. All hours are subject to change as mitigation factors increase or decrease.  

SIUE students local to the LRC or community members who need help with their resume should contact Tomoko Jo, Career Services program assistant. For the most up-to-date information regarding services, events or hours of operation see their Facebook page. Questions or requests for the LRC can be addressed by reaching out to the circulation desk at 874-8719 or emailing them at siue.esl.library@siue.edu. Patrons wishing to use Glen Carbon’s services can contact them at 288-1212.

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