Like everyone else, the effects of COVID-19 defined most of 2020 for the South Brunswick Public Library (SBPL). However, no cloud is without its silver lining and there was good news to be found despite, and even because of, the quarantine.
Restrictions on travel and social interaction prompted a surge of interest in SBPL’s online services and social media interactions, including the creation of the SBPL YouTube Channel. Virtual participation became the new modus operandi for staff and patrons. Video tutorials on how to access e-books and digital resources were sent out to the public.
Closed doors and global pandemics don’t stop library services. But, things did and still do look a bit different.
The adversity that closed the library’s doors on March 13 – and continues to restrict in-person services, depending on the current wave of COVID infections – has actually brought staff members closer to patrons. Children’s Department librarians led virtual story times from their own living room couches and Dee of Dee’s Kitchen Lab brought followers into her own kitchen on Facebook Live.
In fact, the medium was embraced by the entire programming staff serving every age group. Children are offered Spanish language and bedtime story times; ‘tweens have cooking classes and classic book readings; teens have trivia games and art galleries to name a few; adults have podcasts, cooking and computer classes, English As A Second Language and the Historical Society meetings, and much more.
See a complete listing of all virtual and live video offerings in the Events Calendar at sbpl.info.
Live concerts became virtual concerts on Facebook Live; with support from the Friends of the Library and Middlesex County, the library shared six virtual concerts in the fall: one pianist, one violinist, two tabla performances, one jazz singer, and one jazz player. The grant funding is provided by the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders through a grant award from the county Cultural and Arts Trust Fund.
Despite the challenges of quarantine, SBPL staff learned to navigate video conferencing and live chats.
In the spring of 2020, SBPL developed a plan to phase back in interrupted services and access. Every step was (and still is) in cooperation with evolving state and federal health and safety guidelines and library best practices.
The plan has included curbside pickup, grab-and-go, and contactless pickup. Returns and then later overdue fines were reintroduced. However, borrowed items still may only be returned to the outside drop box to allow items a four-day quarantine before going back to the shelf.
Patrons enjoyed limited browsing (mask required) through the summer up to Thanksgiving before the second wave of the virus suspended it.
In the fall, SBPL administration was notified that the New Jersey State Library approved New Jersey Library Construction Bond grants to 38 libraries in the state and SBPL was one of the recipients. The grant for $3,586,852 will help fund the Building the Next Chapter: Constructing Community Spaces project.
The township still must bond for its portion of the matching funds, and sign a grant contract with the state, and the Library Foundation will launch a capital fundraising campaign to help underwrite the costs.
Donations to the foundation can be made at www.sbpl.info/about-us/partners/foundation/ or for naming opportunities contact Library Director Chris Carbone.
Meanwhile, the Township Council and Library Board of Trustees voted to rename the library after former Mayor Christopher J. Killmurray, a strong library advocate and trustee who passed away in 2018.
The plans and improvements are intended to keep pace with the growing population in South Brunswick. Anticipated completion is projected in two to three years.
- This article was submitted by the South Brunswick Public Library