East Brunswick Library goes virtual during COVID-19 crisis; no reopening confirmed

VASHTI HARRIS/ STAFF

EAST BRUNSWICK–The East Brunswick Public Library closed its facilities to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

However, that didn’t stop library staff from finding ways to provide library services to the community.

“The library has been closed for over two months,” Interim Library Director Melissa Kuzma said in a prepared statement. “I still can’t believe that we’ve been away from the library and our customers for that long. But we’ve been able to accomplish so much to serve the community.”

Browsing the library for a book is impossible during the quarantine era. Thus, the library has seen an incredible spike in the use of its online resources. In the past two months, about 16,000 eBooks and e-audiobooks have been checked out digitally. This is an increase in circulation of 135%, according to the statement.

The East Brunswick Public Library also offers access to digital magazines, movies, television shows, comic books and graphic novels. A complete list of digital offerings can be found on the library.

With the library being shut down, the reference desk has moved into the digital space.  Library staff is working remotely on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Customers can ask reference questions by leaving a voicemail or email, according to the statement.

Librarians have answered more than 400 questions covering a variety of topics, including unemployment resources, filing taxes, medical information and how to connect to community services, according to the statement.

East Brunswick Public Library programs and special events also found a new home online. Instead of assembling in the library’s meeting rooms, audiences are gathering in the library’s Zoom conference room. Online programs have featured doctors, New York Times bestselling authors, business experts and artists, all sharing their expertise with the community, according to the statement.

Library staff have also been creating YouTube videos, sharing craft projects, storytimes, cooking demonstrations and book reviews. The library has also crowdsourced these productions to teen volunteers looking to earn service hours, according to the statement.

The library also held online workshops with the Small Business Administration about how to obtain recovery funds. The library’s technology trainers shifted the direction of their classes, now providing introductory courses on computer and coding skills job seekers need.

“I am absolutely blown away by our staff’s creativity,” Kuzma said in the statement. “I can’t believe how quickly everyone came together to reimagine our services and to move them to a virtual platform, and how well our customers have responded.”

Even with the building physically closed, 186 East Brunswick residents were issued their library cards online. This allows library customers to start using the library’s ebooks and other online services within 24 hours.

Although there is no official reopening date, the library is working on a reopening plan that ensures the safety of library customers and staff. This includes increased social distancing throughout the building, quarantining library materials and a curbside pickup program, according to the statement.

“Our biggest concern is keeping everyone in the library safe,” Kuzma said in the statement. “How we do things in the library may change, but our goal is to provide the same level of service that our customers expect.

“We would also like to thank our customers, the Library Board of Trustees and East Brunswick Township Council for their patience and support during this unique time. I can speak for everyone who works at East Brunswick Public Library: we can’t wait to welcome you all back to the library,” she said in the statement.

For more information on the library virtual resources and tools, visit www.ebpl.org/main/ebpl-downloadables.cfm.