Recently I ran into someone I know while I was assisting with checkouts on a busy day at the Victoria Public Library. As I helped her check out, she thanked me and said, “This is helping me with my mental health.”
It was a reminder of the importance of the library to so many people under any circumstances, but especially during this pandemic. Our books, DVDs and audiobooks help people to stay entertained at home, and our computers, printers and internet access are vital to people who lack these resources.
This past Sunday was National Book Lovers Day, and I hope you were able to find time to take a break from your COVID-19 concerns to relax with a good book. Here at the library, promoting literacy is a year-round effort, and even as restrictions on our services have changed, we have remained committed to bringing education and entertainment to all ages.
Our children’s summer reading program is a great way to keep kids engaged with reading and learning as they take a break from their classes, and this year we’ve had to work hard to maintain that engagement through our virtual programs. Through Facebook Live, our Story Time Live storytellers and other performers remind kids to keep reading and keep up with their goals wherever they are.
Of course, literacy is essential for adults as well, with many studies showing that today’s fast-paced media and technology have shortened our attention spans and made it more difficult to pause and focus on a book. That’s why we introduced our adult summer reading challenge, which invites adults to spend the summer reading at least 10 books based on various prompts. Our adult readers will have the chance to win prizes while expanding their literary horizons.
Recognizing the importance of at-home entertainment for all ages, we’ve expanded our programs for adults and teens. Our new VPL Jams and VPL Local events featuring local artists have been a big hit, and we recently hosted a teen book discussion entirely on Instagram.
Our virtual programs have been a key component of our services during the pandemic, but they can’t compensate for services such as printing and internet access that many were missing while we were closed. When we reopened the library in June, people were lined up outside to access these services that many take for granted.
Since the library reopened, our checkout rates have returned to pre-COVID levels while foot traffic has remained lower than pre-COVID levels. Many of our patrons continue to check out materials using our drive-thru service, while others simply check out more materials at a time to reduce their library visits.
We’re able to offer a safe environment to our library visitors by sanitizing frequently and encouraging patrons to practice social distancing. However, those who’d rather stay away can still enjoy access to our drive-thru pickup, our virtual programming and our online materials such as e-books. No matter how you choose to access our services, the Victoria Public Library is here to meet your needs.
Dayna Williams-Capone is the director of the Victoria Public Library.