Reading Amidst A Pandemic

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By Lucas Milgrim

Over the past few months, every person and business has needed to adapt in order to stay healthy and safe, and to navigate rules and new regulations resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Port Washington Public Library (PWPL) has done an exceptional job of keeping their readers engaged and active despite being forced to close on March 13. For many weeks, the PWPL was not allowed to have their patrons inside, so they had to get creative, and quickly. The Port Washington Public Library was dedicated to keeping their patrons occupied in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When we closed to the public March 13, we quickly pivoted to virtual programming and expanded our online resources, making more available and adding new ones like Kanopy, a digital streaming service [for movies and more], and converting our staff to remotely working,” Keith Klang, director of the PWPL said. “We were luckily able to pivot really quickly, which was great for the entire community.”

Although the library was closed, Klang wanted to make sure the public was still able to access the many resources they would normally find in the library. As their closure continued, the library wanted to further expand their online capabilities to keep their readers busy and allow them to access normal content. The library had been using Hoopla before, but they have doubled their capabilities of movie and music streaming on the website in recent months. They also began using Creativebug, which allows them to show video instructions to make crafts, classes that would normally be held in the library.

Further, they developed new online programming for classes such as English for Speakers of Other Languages. These classes were held on Zoom, which they had never done before.
As the pandemic progressed, and we began inching towards our normal lives, the library was able to lend their physical books out again.,

“We have curbside pickup to allow people to have physical books, along with Overdrive [their online book lending service] and other online services to provide online access to our books,” Assistant Library Director James Hutter said. “For those that are at a higher risk but still want physical copies, we do have a delivery system to accommodate.” They also have now begun to allow patrons to use their outdoor facilities, and connect to the library’s internet.

While the library’s services were changing, the jobs of their staff were as well.
“I think adapting to managing an organization and a group of team members where there are many more online meetings rather than in person that had never been done for us before,” Klang said. “We were able to pivot, but it’s still been a huge transition to meet virtually rather than on site. Managing the ways to stay unified as an organization, and honestly as a family, has been a giant transition for all of us.” Both Hutter and Klang have made sure to check in on their staff to make sure they are staying healthy, safe and at home, until it is safe for them to come back to work.

The Port Washington Public Library is eager to fully reopen to the public once they can do so safely and legally. For now, they will continue to work around the problems presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. When asked about possible restarting of programs, Klang answered, “Right now, we’re assessing all that…for the foreseeable future we will stick to online services, and we’ve only just started offering in person services such as grab-and-go computer usage and drive-up pickup.”

Hutter added, “We’ve actually thought this out and have been taking guidance from the Governor. We have to follow the executive orders, but we are eager to come back to in-person services.”

The library is open for browsing and select services on Mondays and Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Thursdays and Fridays from 2 to 6 p.m. with time and capacity limits. Curbside pickup services continue to be available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.pwpl.org.

-Lucas Milgrim is a contributing writer for Anton Media Group

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