I hope that you and the people in your life are well. Since closing to the public on March 13, Kent District Library has shifted and transformed on many levels to meet rapidly changing needs. This has come out of a sense of duty and a commitment to service for the community. I am writing to provide highlights of what we’ve been up to and how we are planning to reopen the library.
In direct response to the “Stay Safe, Stay Home” order, we’ve quickly shifted to an online model of serving individuals in the community with KDL staff working from their homes. This includes:
- Conducting more than 150 online programs in March and April (so far) with attendance of more than 20,000 (if we assume that online storytimes are watched by a parent and at least one child, the number is probably greater than 30,000).
- Developing a system-wide schedule of online programs through the end of August. These replace the live, in-person programs that normally take place at the branch locations.
- Restructuring KDL Summer Wonder (previously known as “Summer Reading”) to be comprised of activities that can be completed at home and online. This includes creating an all-ages workbook that has a strong focus on science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) for school-age children. Summer library activities have always played a significant role in helping offset the summer slide that takes place when school is not in session, and the need for summer library activities have never been greater than they are now.
- The KDL Seed Library, normally an in-branch resource, has delivered thousands of seed packs throughout Kent County by taking orders online, then mailing them to residents’ homes. We are also partnering with HOPE Gardens to send seeds and educational information to students.
- Conducting Spanish storytimes via Zoom with displaced youth at Bethany Christian Services.
- Ordering 200 more Wi-Fi hotspots to provide to homes without internet access.
- Serving a 22 percent increase in eBook circulation, and 52 percent increase in use of databases and other online services in the month of March.
In addition, we’re continuing to work on several projects that started before the closing. These include:
- Implementation of OverDrive for eBooks and audiobooks.
- Development of a new website, which will be launched in October. The new website will provide a more integrated online experience for users with improved mobile access.
- Implementation of a new staffing model that enables staff to dedicate a greater focus to patron service and outreach in the community (schools, senior centers, etc.).
- Professional development for library staff, with training on new technology and project management skills, to improve efficiency and effectiveness of operations.
- Gathering user input as our 2021 strategic planning has moved into the stakeholder feedback phase. Surveys have been conducted with individuals in the service area and community partners (schools, municipalities, social service organizations, etc.).
KDL is also planning for the eventual reopening of the library. Once the “Stay Safe, Stay Home” order has been lifted or revised, we will make final decisions on how to safely open the branches to the public. Given what we know now, the most likely phases for reopening include:
- KDL staff returning to the library, while our branches remain temporarily closed to the public. During this time, staff will prepare the facilities and resources.
- Next, staff will begin to provide curbside service for pickup and return of items.
- After it’s been determined that the public can visit the library, KDL branches will be reopened while employing new short-term policies and practices to help with social distancing, such as limiting the number of people allowed in the buildings at one time, increasing spacing between public computers and temporarily removing certain items like play-space toys and other items that are frequently handled and difficult to sanitize. These changes may result in a visitor queue outside of the library, and staff schedules being shifted to process returned items during closed hours.
All of these plans and activities are subject to change, depending on new guidelines from government and health officials, but it’s the basic framework for reopening the library to the public.
We are grateful to have partners like you, enabling the library to continue to provide great value to the community, even in the most challenging times. I would appreciate the opportunity to learn more about what challenges you may face and how Kent District Library may help.