A Learning Experience

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March marked the three-year anniversary of COVID-19 as we know it. I remember making a sign for the door at my last job saying we’d be closed for two weeks. Ha! I remember those weeks turning into months…and months. My days were spent working from home, doing payroll in the sunshine on my front porch, working on projects around the house and trying to score toilet paper and hand sanitizer, all while developing entirely new ways of serving our community. Libraries got creative and pivoted fast. We offered curbside pickup, online story times, virtual chat and Wi-Fi in the parking lot. The use of eBooks and other downloadable materials skyrocketed.

Not only did library services change, but so did all city and social services. Applying for unemployment, getting medical help, visiting with loved ones—every aspect of our lives went online. For many of us, this was a breeze as we were already online. We were reading books on our Kindles. Googling everything we ever heard about booking our vacations, paying bills, shopping, watching TV – all on our laptops. We could do everything imaginable on our phones without having to place a single call.

This wasn’t easy for everyone. Many people – especially older adults – weren’t familiar with pdfs, uploading documents or even using a mouse. And they were suddenly forced to learn it all, immediately, without much help.

All of this made library staff think about how we serve our towns. As I’ve said before, it is not about the books; it is about the people. And suddenly, we couldn’t provide either. We realized that it is about the books, and the people. But even more, it is about adaptability. Some people say the library is obsolete. That it is just an old, antiquated notion that has been completely superseded by the internet. Library users know this is not true. Staff know this is not true. But if there is any nugget of truth to it, it is that libraries must adapt and evolve along with the rest of the world. We must bend with technology, with how information is presented, and with the ever-changing needs of our patrons.

What else has COVID taught us? Most of all, we learned that our in-person connection to friends and family is essential to our well-being. KML invites you and a friend or two to come in for a movie! In April, we’ll be showing Women Talking in our auditorium, among others. We learned that Zoom can be a terrific tool to reach audiences and share information and stories across great distances. KML’s Books and Beyond series does just that. In April, join us online for a discussion with Nathaniel Ian Miller, author of The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven. We learned that in many industries, we can be productive working remotely. Come to KML to work on your laptop or use our public computers, printers or scanners. Got a Zoom meeting and a house full of noisy people? Come to KML to use our new Talk Box, a soundproof workstation.

Need something that the library doesn’t provide? Talk to us. We’ll see if it’s something we can offer in the future, or we’ll find it somewhere else and point you in the right direction. You can reach us by phone, email, on social media, and of course, in person.

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