Last week’s column

Orange County Reg­is­ter — North County News-Tribune; Date: May 21, 2020; Sec­tion: News; Page Num­ber: A2

The library is the cyber-place to be

How are you hold­ing up, Pla­cen­tia? It’s Day 6,000 of the quarantine—or seems that way. I have no idea what day, or month it is, and it’s okay. Most of the time, I don’t need to know.

All those home projects I swore I’d do when I had time are still not done. Instead, I’ve binge-watched “The Man­dalo­rian,” started writ­ing another book, and learned to take naps.

I’ll have to find some other excuse for why the linen closet isn’t organized.

Once a month, I have to attend a library board meet­ing, but they’re now being held using Zoom, an app I’d never heard of until this pan­demic. It’s been an inter­est­ing tran­si­tion, to see faces on the screen, get deci­sions made, and try not to talk over each other. I admit, I’m get­ting spoiled, being able to walk into my office and hold the meeting.

This is an embar­rass­ing con­fes­sion, because I live less than 5 min­utes from the library.

A con­fes­sion that doesn’t embar­rass me is how proud I am of our library dur­ing this quar­an­tine. They have been a bea­con of infor­ma­tion, unity, and hope for our com­mu­nity. I can say that, because the direc­tor and her staff are the peo­ple think­ing of inge­nious ways to help our patrons. I’m just the board mem­ber who approves their plans.

And I do approve.

Before the gov­er­nor issued the stay-at-home orders, our direc­tor and staff were already tak­ing pre­cau­tions to ensure the safety of our patrons, as well as the employ­ees. Gloves and masks were ordered, books were san­i­tized, and social dis­tanc­ing was implemented.

But they knew that wouldn’t be enough.

They devel­oped a strat­egy for serv­ing the pub­lic online. The library already boasts online access to ebooks, music, edu­ca­tion, and more. The staff aug­mented that with online children’s pro­gram­ming, gam­ing for teens, and fun events for every­one. When the stay-at-home order came, they were ready.

But they knew that wouldn’t be enough, either.

They’re now pre­sent­ing plans for how to re-open the library to the pub­lic and keep every­one safe and com­fort­able. As with the state’s plans, it will be a phased approach. The library is known as a safe haven for so many peo­ple, we’d like to keep it that way.

And through it all, our library direc­tor has been issu­ing a mes­sage reg­u­larly to give patrons access to the lat­est infor­ma­tion about the virus, and the government’s response. In addi­tion, she adds her per­sonal touch—to remain calm, cher­ish your loved ones, and look for the light in the mid­dle of this dark time.

When I watched our library crew come together and work through the ren­o­va­tion, I was inspired by how will­ing they were to stay com­mit­ted to see­ing the project to com­ple­tion. Now, see­ing them work­ing from home, find­ing inno­v­a­tive ways to serve their patrons, and still show­ing up with smiles at Zoom staff meet­ings, I am in awe. Librar­i­ans are my superstars.

Some day we will put this pan­demic in our mem­o­ries as some­thing we lived through. Per­haps there will be pre­cau­tions we adopt per­ma­nently, either because we find them more effi­cient, or more of a deter­rent to dis­ease. We may not need so many meet­ings. Masks in pub­lic may make more sense. In any case, the library will be there to help.

If only they could help me orga­nize that linen closet.

Long­time Pla­cen­tia res­i­dent Gayle Car­line tracks those moments that shape her days as a wife, mom, com­puter whiz and horse­woman. E-mail her at [email protected].

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