Warwick Public Library services will soon be on the move

By ALEX MALM

In March 2020, staff at Warwick Public Library were told they would be working from home temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The physical location was closed, but that didn’t stop the library from serving the community.

“July 2020 to June 2021 has been one of the most difficult years on record at the Warwick Public Library. We have been through a pandemic, significant fluctuations in staff and constant adjustment in the way we provide service to the public, ”wrote library director Jana Stevenson in her review report of the year. “As a result of, or perhaps even despite these challenges, the staff did their best to meet the needs of the community. “

After a year and a half of premieres, the library will also continue to do things differently.

Recently, the library received a Library Strengthening Project Grant of $ 49,850 from RI’s Office of Library and Information Services and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Stevens says the grant will fund the purchase of an outreach vehicle the library will use to reach underserved populations in Warwick. The library has partnered with Westbay Community Action to identify areas and agencies that are unable to access the services provided by the library. The van will contain computers and access points that can be used to provide workforce development skills and access to services such as the Home Energy Assistance Program for those at home. low income and help with paying bills.

“We will also have the ability to check out articles and run traditional library programs such as story time and book club meetings,” Stevens said. “We are planning to start a meal club with supplies provided by the market pantry. We also plan to promote family literacy with the summer learning program.

She said they hope to buy a Ford Transit Cargo Van as soon as they can.

She said they have a request for proposal on the City’s website.

Stevens said they will also need to get graphics for the exterior of the vehicle and configure the interior of the vehicle to contain all of the materials.

“We hope to be on the road by the end of winter or early spring,” Stevens said.

Stevens said they divided the project’s four goals into different categories.

One of them is connectivity and workforce development skills. She said some of the things they plan to do provide laptops and WiFi on every visit with assistance in using them. Library staff also plan to schedule on-site training sessions to facilitate online job applications and access to workforce training programs.

For their goal of helping tackle food insecurity, Stevens said they plan to have meal kit programs that will include a recipe and the food needed to prepare the meal. Upon returning to the venue, the library will hold follow-up discussions about the meal.

Stevens said that when they help adults, they also help children at the same time.

“While adults receive one-on-one assistance and use our onboard resources, their children will benefit from a story hour and craft program that incorporates literacy and school readiness skills,” said Stevens.

Library staff also hope to promote a sense of community through the project.

“The pandemic has sent families indoors and many are grappling with depression and social and emotional issues,” Stevens said. “A visit to the mobile library will provide a place of solidarity gathering for the community. “

The addition of the awareness vehicle will take place almost two years after the start of the pandemic.

As soon as the library staff were told they would be working from home, they started making changes.

Knowing that they would need to do things online to connect with the Ellen O’Brien community, the library’s deputy director said they immediately checked their webpage and updated it so that it presents their database, their eBooks and their resources that people need.

They also worked with the school district to create tutorials so people know how to use the databases.

O’Brien said that due to the need for more digital materials, library staff began to focus on the materials they were purchasing.

“We really changed our spending and bought a lot of electronics,” O’Brien said.

According to the Library’s annual report, digital use increased by 22% and 117,599 eBooks, audiobooks, music albums, movies, TV shows and stories were downloaded or streamed.

While working from home, staff began to develop programs that could be done remotely, including virtual storytelling hours and book clubs, outdoor programs, and take-home crafts.

According to the annual report, the library had 378 programs with 12,312 participants between July 2020 and June 2021.

Since local teens continued to need community service hours for many things, the library launched a virtual program VolunTEENS. The teens designed recovery cards for hospitalized children, created video tutorials, made homemade gifts for deployed soldiers, and wrote peer reviews.

A total of 43 volunteers contributed 333 volunteer hours over the course of one year.

As the library has reached out to many in the community, O’Brien said she has more clients in person than she has virtually.

“When the doors are open and people can come as they please, we definitely see more people. But we felt we were able to connect with the people who were looking for us and also reach out to those who might not realize that “yes we are still there the building is close but we are here for you, ”said O’Brien. .

Stevenson said when the library reopened in July 2020, they saw around 9,600 visits to the library, compared to 2019 when they had 29,000 visits.

She said it was important when they reopened because the DMV and other places continued to be closed and only did things by fax and email which not everyone did. no access. Stevenson said people could get these services through the library.

“It was a huge thing, especially in July, August, September of last year. People were so thankful that we were open again and enabling the services, ”she said.

Like many other places, it was slow for the library to see visitors face to face at the volume they had before.

“It took a while for people to come back. Over the summer we started counting daily and monthly doors to something more than what we had in the past, ”Stevenson said.

She said they had engaged with the community to try and bring back attendance numbers.

“We are making a huge effort to reach out to the community… we are trying to turn the tide.”

In July, she said they had reached 14,000 visits, which was the highest total month in the pandemic.

While there aren’t as many faces coming through the doors as before the pandemic, O’Brien said they were happy to have been open without a break since January 2021.

“It has been wonderful for us and the customers to see us again. When they come back they are so excited to be back. We have truly missed our community.


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