The essential role of public libraries is more vital than ever as our nation’s counties grapple with the devastating impact of COVID-19 and begin the difficult work to move beyond the pandemic. Libraries have adapted to the current environment in new and innovative ways, helping people gain vital access to information and necessary services. The following are just a few examples of how libraries are innovating and rapidly adapting during the COVID-19 crisis to support county relief and recovery efforts.
Los Angeles County, Calif. Library: Providing digital access to homeless
Los Angeles County Library has stepped up through a partnership with the United Way of Greater Los Angeles to bring remote library access to homeless individuals during the coronavirus outbreak. Librarians have created 7,000 online activity kits including digital library card IDs and PIN numbers, for distribution to local organizations serving homeless populations, as well as other vulnerable individuals, through the Project Roomkey initiative.
St. Louis County, Mo. Library: Prioritizing technology needs for youth
St. Louis County Library serves as the COVID-19 Regional Response Team’s lead agency for remote learning and technology, partnering with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and area educational leaders and organizations. In this role, the library is equipping local residents with critical tools to provide internet access and enable digital learning. To encourage and facilitate distance learning for young children, the library has provided 221 PBS Kids Playtime Pads to two local school districts. Children can enjoy pre-loaded PBS content, including educational games and apps geared towards learning, without utilizing an internet connection.
Douglas County, Colo. libraries: Supporting strong education outcomes
This graduation season, Douglas County Libraries celebrated the Class of 2020 by dispersing a special graduate toolkit to area high schools seniors to commemorate the important milestone. The special gift contained a toolkit graduates can use to handle minor repairs and personal projects, along with a special gift card donated by local small businesses. DCL staff worked to create these graduation gifts and distributed them to approximately 2,100 students in Douglas County.
Pima County, Ariz. Public Library: Combating food insecurity for low-income families
Starting out as a joint project with Amphitheater Public Schools and the Arizona Department of Education, Pima County Public Library is distributing food to help fill the void for children who have lost access to their school’s free and reduced lunch. The library offers a contact-free service at 10 locations giving out Grab-N-Go Super Snack packets filled with non-perishable snacks for children. With the help of the Arizona Army National Guard and local Wilson Produce, staff are also able to provide free produce boxes for free to families in need.
Pierce County, Wash. Library System: Building communities of learning in the digital age
After drastically reducing in-person programming and services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pierce County Library System has reimagined its role within the community and expanded its digital offerings and resources. New virtual reading rooms are now being offered to patrons, who can access digital e-books and e-audiobooks selected specifically by PCLS librarians. The effort was created to model how physical spaces in libraries are laid out for ease of book selection. The Kids, Teens, Mystery and Thrillers and DIY virtual reading rooms have been specifically curated to meet the new demand for digital offerings and have led to the library gaining 5,000 new library users in a two-month period.
To learn more about how libraries across the country are innovating to lead their communities forward from the pandemic, visit urbanlibraries.org.