How Public Libraries Are Responding to COVID-19

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As the coronavirus known as COVID-19 continues to spread, America’s libraries are faced with an unprecedented challenge: serving their communities in a time of crisis while maintaining social distancing. The Public Library Association recently surveyed libraries across the country and found that 98% of respondents had closed their doors to the public, but that libraries are still finding innovative ways to provide access to information for all.

Here are a few of the most common ways public libraries have reported responding to COVID-19:

  • 76% have extended online renewal policies
  • 74% have expanded online check-out services
  • 61% have added virtual programming
  • 41% have expanded online reference services

Survey responses also highlighted how libraries have collaborated with civic partners to serve crucial needs in their areas. Rochester Public Library in Minnesota helped lead local efforts to open a day shelter for people experiencing homelessness; Cranston Public Library in Rhode Island created a video PSA with the city’s mayor to encourage residents to complete their census forms online.

Some libraries’ new initiatives have been so successful that they hope to continue them even after the pandemic ends. “We are introducing many services which will likely become permanent when we are open again,” shared staff from McArthur Public Library in Maine. “We have really been heartened by the response to virtual storytimes, read-alouds and cooking demos.”

Learn more at the Public Library Association website. If your library has developed innovative ways of serving your community, share on Twitter using the hashtag #LibrariesStrong.