As April 2020 began we found ourselves facing a world-wide pandemic. Covid 19 had made its way to Maine, bringing with it highly contagious disease and death. Adhering to guidelines established by the Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the Maine State Library (MSL) we closed our doors on March 17 after notifying the public a few days earlier. People flocked to the library on that last open day and we circulated nearly 500 items. We were happy to see so many familiar faces but sad as we faced an uncertain future with no idea of when we would again be open to the public – perhaps two weeks, a month at most? Such was our limited grasp of what the future would hold. The 255 public libraries throughout Maine were facing this same new reality. Through it all the MSL kept us informed, and offered calm, rational guidelines based on science. What would we have done without them?
At the outset of this terrible pandemic library staff, never having faced such a calamity, came together to decide how we could best continue to provide library service to our community while protecting the public and ourselves. We consulted with state library officials as well as other libraries throughout Maine for guidance. On May 18 we began curbside book delivery service four days per week, becoming carhops – books not burgers — delivered to readers waiting in their cars. When, on August 17, we determined it was safe to reopen on a limited basis we took recommended precautions – installing plexiglass at the circulation desk, fans for ventilation, providing hand sanitizer, requiring masks and social distancing, and signage throughout the building. All of this to keep everyone as safe as we could with the knowledge that we had at the time. Opening was gradual and eventually we resumed normal hours. Throughout all of this disruption we were gratified and encouraged by the response of library users. Their patience, understanding and, most of all, their expressed appreciation for the measures we had taken to resume service safely was heartening.
Due to travel restrictions imposed by the state we saw far fewer summer residents. Travel to and from Campobello Island continues to be limited as the border remains closed. These disruptions have had the expected negative impact on our circulation. The total number of library visits decreased from 15,420 in 2019 to 3,754 in 2020. Yet, despite the 75% decrease in visits, it’s worth noting that our circulation numbers decreased by only 35%, with circulation of materials at 14,749 in 2019 and 9,347 in 2020. Circulation of downloadable materials increased from 703 in 2019 to 889 in 2020, a reflection of more people spending increased time online during the pandemic.
We continue efforts to meet the goals set forth in our Collection Development Policy. The purchase of new materials has continued unabated. In 2020 there were over 21,000 books and other print materials available to be borrowed as well as DVDs, CDs, and access to downloadable ebooks and audiobooks. This figure includes 13,545 adult books, 7,776 children’s books, 1281 movies, 886 audiobooks and music CDs and 43 magazine and newspaper subscriptions. Through the Maine InfoNet Download Library our patrons have access to 15,087 ebooks and 8,046 audiobooks.
Due to Covid restrictions in-house programs have not been possible. We look forward to the day when we can resume this valuable public service, eventually in our new and expanded community room. We are currently developing plans to offer outdoor children’s programs during the summer. Denise Rule, our volunteer art show coordinator, has organized monthly exhibits in the library since September when Ann Oliver-Nickerson’s paintings were displayed. These continued exhibits have provided a welcome touch of normalcy. In October and November Robin Rier’s paintings were shown. In December Helen Lelievre’s paper Nativity scenes decorated the shelves, and Lubec Elementary School student’s art brightened our walls through February. In March paintings by Judy Trafford and Deb Seavey’s collages were displayed. And this month we offer Shelly Tinker’s Works in Sea Glass.
While this has been a year of challenges, uncertainty, loss and anxiety we have also witnessed examples of kindness, cooperation, creativity and grace under pressure. We are grateful for the patience and support of our community as we have sought to balance library access and safety in this troubled time. We look to better days ahead and a return to the library service we all have come to expect and deserve.
In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.