What an incredible time to step into the role as Library Director! As we are all hunkered down in our homes, I can’t help but reflect on what this last month has been like for the entire staff at the Kent Memorial Library, and what it means for our community.
This isn’t the first time libraries have seen a major shift in services. The economic downturn of 2007 – 2010 saw a tremendous increase in library usage. With a broad financial strain, millions flocked to their local libraries and we saw a significant increase in circulation across the country.
I think what’s interesting about our current state of affairs is how social distancing measures will impact how libraries consider adapting their lending services post-COVID-19. Shifting a focus to digital content seems intuitive on the one hand, and yet we need to consider the divide between Digital Natives (those born after the 1980s who grew up with technology), and Digital Immigrants (those born before the 1980s who have adapted to technology).
We also have to consider access: The World Economic Forum recently reported that 21 million people in the United States still live without high-speed Internet access (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-digital-divide-internet-data-broadband-mobbile/), and while Internet service providers have expanded their offerings into many rural communities in response to this global pandemic, the reality is these figures are quite understated, and a connection to the Internet is still a luxury. In many cases, the computers within the public library act as the only point of access for members of our community.
As June swiftly approaches, we may find ourselves still at home when we celebrate our one-year anniversary for re-entering our beautiful library building at 50 N. Main Street. Though our physical library may not be accessible to the public right now, our staff is working diligently to develop and provide services to our Town. If you know anyone without access to a computer or the Internet and they need help finding information, I invite you to share our phone number: 860-668-3896. Call, leave a message, and staff will respond as we safely take turns rotating through the building.
Otherwise, please reach us through our website and social media platforms. I encourage you to read Wendy Taylor’s articles this month reviewing the digital services currently available, and stay tuned as we explore new ways of offering library programs — there are some fun projects in the works! Stay safe, and stay healthy.