When people hear the word “library” a few things typically come to mind, namely librarians and books. But a library is run by people working in many different roles. They’re all helping community members with much more than book recommendations. Our series Spend a Day with a Library Worker takes you inside the lives of our library staff in different roles and follows them on a typical workday.
If you’ve visited any of our library locations recently, you’ve probably noticed things look a bit different: social distance floor markers, plexiglass barriers, hand sanitizer, and masks. Like most businesses and organizations across the country, the pandemic has posed new challenges to providing the services our communities rely on.
Library workers like Senior Library Services Assistant Taylor Wallpe are rising to the challenge.
"My position has not changed drastically since reopening," said Taylor. "As a Library Service Assistant, our main focus is customer service, whether that be material recommendations, locating an item within our system or SearchOhio, placing items on hold, and quick printing, copying or faxing. We have adjusted to our new normal, taking the necessary precautions to ensure that staff and customers are safe."
One clear change that has taken place at the Downtown Main Library, where Taylor works, is the initial greeting when entering the building. "While our doors are always open, we have had to place time limitations on browsing and computer use to ensure that we are able to assist all customers while maintaining distance," said Taylor.
"We also ask that anyone who enters the building wears a mask, which we can provide for you. Because of current limitations, we have tried to make the first floor of the library a one-stop location where you can quickly get in and out while following social distancing guidelines. While we still offer the same services, you may see staff members behind a plexiglass or handling material while wearing gloves."
Taylor’s day begins at 9 a.m. First, she responds to emails and does a sweep of the Print Center to make sure the printers are working properly and fully stocked with paper. She prints guest passes and wipes down all of the surfaces.
At 10 a.m. the doors open to the public. Taylor helps with computer access, copying, printing, faxing, (all free services!) and checking out holds for half of the morning and spends the other half working the entrance and making sure everyone who comes in knows the expectations and what is open in the building.
In the afternoon, she answers phone calls to the Virtual Information Center and helps customers with questions they might have. She also responds to department emails for item requests.
After lunch, Taylor has an hour to work on projects, displays, and outreach work in her office. “If I am all caught up on my work, I can help with holds or shelving. Then at 3 p.m. it’s back to the printer followed by working the Popular Library desk and answering reference questions, locating items in our system or SearchOhio, and paging for items.”
Taylor’s day concludes by working at the entrance. Here is where some of the biggest changes because of the pandemic can be felt.
"We have to be sure that everyone who enters the building is aware of the guidelines we’ve put in place for the safety of staff and guests. We have also changed the way we handle materials being returned to the library. Items that are returned are quarantined for four days before being checked in. It may take longer for a returned item to come off your account but they will not accrue fines during this time. We are also being very careful when providing customer assistance on library computers: Public PC’s are sanitized after every use. We have started using a program that allows us to access a public computer and provide assistance remotely, without having to break social distancing guidelines."
"Before returning to work I was a little anxious about the safety of our staff and customers, as well as the stress of implementing our new safety precautions,” Taylor said. “However, I’m excited to be back! I missed working and seeing our regulars at the library, and they have been very excited to see us. With so many people experiencing unemployment, we have a lot of new users asking questions about our in-person and digital services. We have recently started providing tech help for students who are experiencing distance learning."
With fewer people in the building right now, the Downtown Main Library’s drive-through and digital services remain steady. The Library's free faxing and Job & Family Services scanning are still much-needed services in the community and this service point continues to be one of the busiest in the building.
One thing that hasn’t changed? Taylor’s love of the guests who visit the library. "We missed everyone’s smiling faces and could not wait to get back to serving our community. When we first re-opened it took a few weeks for customers to realize that we had returned to in-person services. We are slowly starting to see more and more regulars returning as we expand our services"