Meanwhile, Back in the Real World

. . . I may have mentioned I’m a librarian. One must pay the bills, after all, and although self-publishing allows me unlimited artistic freedom, it also ensures that I have a fan base of about 25 actual human beings and a plush otter. Hence the need to have another job.

I work for the public library system, in my hometown of Newport News, Virginia. The Grissom Branch, specifically. You can find them on line at https://www.library.nnva.gov/258/Virgil-I-Grissom-Library, or you can find the entire Newport News Library system’s Facebook blog at https://www.facebook.com/nnlibrary. We serve a diverse community of all ages, ethnicities, and so cioeconomic backgrounds. We loan fiction and non-fiction for all ages, manga and graphic novels, movies, videogames, and music and books on CD. We have sections dedicated to English-language learners, to vocational testing practice workbooks, and to books by local authors (yes, my books are there). We could host events for around 200 people at a time, and were looking forward to eventually moving to a larger facility. On any given day you might find elderly retirees checking out the latest thrillers (don’t ask me why sweet little grannies love gory mysteries—I just know they do!), a dozen job-seekers using the computer systems to look for work or access on-line education, teens studying with tutors, home-schooled elementary age kids participating in STEM activities, or toddlers listening to Storytime.

Or at least, you used to. Then COVID happened. We closed. We re-opened to limited capacity. We closed again. But we still want to do everything we can for our community under the circumstances. We developed a “contactless” curbside pick-up system, where patrons can request books on line, make an appointment to come pick them up, and then have us deliver their materials out to their cars—even if it’s raining. And we moved our programming on-line. Grissom has a large collection of recorded programs for all ages (https://www.library.nnva.gov/307/Virtual-Programming), and we are uploading more to YouTube all the time; at last count, we had fifty-five videos on our Storytime channel alone (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLU-06Muxq_HN0e8bYV4syrw940E1LzplZ). Each video is live-streamed as it’s recorded, so, for example, parents who used to bring their children to the library can watch the live-stream at the day and time their children were used to, or at any time that’s convenient. Vloging on YouTube has been a lifeline for our library; a way for us to connect with our patrons safely during the shutdown. I have recommended our videos to parents in locations far away from Newport News; my hope is that, even after we are open to the public again, we will continue to make videos available to reach patrons everywhere.

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