things i heard at the library: an occasional series: #33

As I sat down to write this, I searched for the last "things i heard at the library" post, to get the number. Amazingly, today's post turns out to be a follow-up to the previous TIH! That was a surprise! And it makes writing this much easier.

July 2020:
I just heard a heartbreaking lament from one of our regular customers, who was here for curbside.

She told us that most people she knows do not have internet access or any TV service, and many do not have phones. They rely on library staff to suggest and order materials for them.

We assured her that we can still do that. We asked her to encourage folks to show up during curbside hours and we will find books and DVDs for them.

Then she said, "It's not just the boredom. It's the isolation. It's the friendship. We are a poor community, and this library is our lifeline. I would work on the jigsaw puzzle or read a magazine, but that was just an excuse to be among people, to see friendly faces, to connect. The other place we would hang out is the Salvation Army – also closed. Many people go to church for that reason only, to connect with people – also closed. We've been cut adrift. People are depressed and they're suffering."

She understands why we can't open our doors yet. She just wants us to know how much the library space is missed.

I share this [with library management] as a reminder, both of the great need for physical materials – a need not likely to go away, and of the service we provide that cannot fit through the takeout window.
July 2022:

I hadn't seen that customer again -- until yesterday. I hustled over to her, and greeted her warmly. We chatted a bit, and when it seemed appropriate, I reminded her of that conversation.
LK: Last time I saw you, you mentioned how difficult it was not to have the library and other places to hang out. All during the lockdown, I thought about you, wondered how you were doing. How did you end up getting through covid?

Customer: Do you know what I did? I adapted. I started watching Kanopy, I used all the stuff you can use at home. I started learning Spanish on Mango, looked for crafts in Creativebug, watched The Knowledge Network. I just started doing all the at-home library things I could find. It's still really hard. People have died. Our old routines are gone. But keeping my brain active -- that has really helped a lot. 
I could scarcely express how happy that made me! 

I knew that many library customers turned to online services and e-resources during covid. But although that occured throughout our regional system, I've always wondered if customers in our remote locations shared that experience. (I do see statistics, but that can't account for individual customers.) While our most vulnerable customers -- people without internet at home, and people without homes -- couldn't, this woman is not among the affluent and well-connected. And somehow, she did this. Our library helped her get through. So, so, so wonderful.

I told her we have in-person programming again, and invited her to stop by on a Wednesday night, when we always have something for adults -- a movie, or board games, puzzles, sometimes a special event. She was skeptical, unsure if she was ready for that -- which was also good information for me to have -- as we struggle with low turnout. But wow, did this ever make my day!

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