As many people have been stuck at home over the past couple of months, some have begun to explore or returned to the world of books in order to quench their boredom during these strange times.
Like many other businesses, the Auburn Public Library was forced to change the way it operated due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Chris Warren, director for the Auburn Public Library, said that the transition was a challenge for him and his team, but not an impossible task.
“One of the many questions going into the pandemic was how can we provide our services while still following the guidelines and supporting social distancing,” he said.
In order to continue serving the people of Auburn, Warren and his team began investing heavily into digital resources. According to Warren, circulation of the library’s digital resources has tripled this year compared to last year.
The library offers access to the New York Times and the Washington Post as well as video-streaming, ebooks, e-audiobooks, arts and crafts ideas, career resources, and much more all from its website.
Aside from boosting its online presence, the library has also begun to implement a curbside pickup service in order to create a contactless way to check out physical resources.
Patrons need only reserve a book online using their library card. When they arrive at the library, posted signs will direct the patron to alert the staff by call or text that they have arrived, and their items will be placed on a table outside for the most contactless checkout possible.
All of the library's online resources can be accessed with any existing library card. If you want to gain access to all of the library’s online resources but don't have a card, the library is offering a temporary card for digital resources. To check out a book in person or by using the curbside pickup, one may stop by the library and sign up for a card.
While digital resources and curbside pickup have proven to be great tools, Warren noted that there is still a need to go inside the library at times, and he assures that it is as safe an experience as possible.
“We have taken many steps to make sure everything is safe as possible,” he said.
From offering regularly-cleaned self-checkouts, to encouraging patrons to follow the guidelines set by health officials, Warren is confident in the safety of an in-person visit to the library.
The library, in partnership with Auburn Mayor Ron Anders, has begun the One Auburn: One Read initiative, which includes a book assignment to spread awareness on the experience of being black in America. Starting July 15, residents are encouraged to read “Under Our Skin” by Ben Watson.
Participants are encouraged to buy the book from a local bookstore, if possible, and the Auburn Public Library will carry the book as well. Anders hopes that residents will both read and respond to the book by fostering discussions with one another, whether it is in an existing small group, book club, or a new group altogether.
As the Auburn Public Library moves through this different time, Warren added that he is very proud of the innovation the staff has had over the past couple of months.
“Everyone has felt some degree of anxiety or stress as to how we provide access to computers, ebooks, etc., so we have made every effort to be creative and provide those services as best we can with the limitations we have,” he said. “I am extremely appreciative of the staff for being so creative in such an unprecedented time.”
The library’s staff has come up with ways to offer more than just resources, such as activities like At-Home Read-Along that incentivize reading. The At-Home Read Along sets reading goals for patrons and when a patron meets their goals, their name gets entered into a drawing to receive a prize, the most recent of which was a Tiger Town To Go gift card.
“The At-Home Read-Along really checked a whole lotta boxes for us,” said Warren. “It helped the local economy, promoted reading and allowed for people to practice social distancing.”
As the library continues to adapt, Warren noted that while some of these changes have been made because of a tough situation, ideas such as curbside pickup have been so popular that they may just stick around for the long run.
To get access to the resources offered by the Auburn Public Library, go to www.auburnalabama.org/library/.