Library Working To Serve Patrons While Social Distancing

Apr 24, 2020

A children's librarian gets ready for story time.
Credit Uintah County Library

After being closed for over a month, the Uintah County Library began a “soft opening” this week. The library staff is continuing to work to provide community resources, while social distancing.

“We feel like we're essential in providing great learning resources and that novel that's going to be the escape that's going to save someone from strangling their spouse. We want to make that available. But right now my fear is that if we get this flood of people that think ‘hey, everything's back to normal,’ well, then we're gonna have to shut back down, said Samuel Passey, the director of the Uintah County Library. 

He said for years he has been promoting the services libraries provide beyond books, like internet access, a space for community gathering, and fostering kindergarten readiness. When the library shut down in March, he and his staff were worried about what the community would do without these resources. 

He said luckily, the local telecom company began providing some free high-speed internet options to help students with distance education. But there are people without fixed addresses, like seasonal workers who live out of their cars, who can’t really use that service. 

“Since we've been closed, that's been a big, big loss in our area,” Passey said. “Our WiFi is on and we've done what we can to extend the WiFi outside the building so people could come up to the building even when we’re closed and use the WiFi. That's another reason we're really glad that the health department saw fit to let us do this soft opening.”

And while the soft opening may help some people access WIFi, it still doesn’t allow for activities like story time that promote childhood literacy. Because of that, Passey said the children’s librarians will continue to get creative and do things like streaming story time, or leaving craft kits in the community for families to find. 

“We're required to wear masks and one of our children's librarians, she's taking it one step further where she has a mask that looks like the muzzle of a lion,” Passey said. “And then she made this paper lion headdress. And she's going to be streaming a storytime, wearing her mask and headdress just to help children be a little less scared of these things.”

In addition to digital resources, Passey said librarians have been bringing books to people’s cars. And who knows?  This service, he said, may be one that sticks around.