Fluvanna County Public Library adjusts to COVID-19 pandemic

By Madeline Otten

During times of uncertainty, people often find themselves faced with change. One of the biggest changes people experienced during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic was having more spare time. With schools moving to virtual or hybrid learning styles and many offices shifting to remote work, people started to notice the amount of time that opened up, and with more time, came new creative ways to occupy it. While many people saw this opportunity to exercise and learn new hobbies such as baking, drawing and painting, and do it yourself projects, other stuck to hobbies they were familiar with, like reading.

For Fluvanna County residents, reading was attainable through e-books, rereading old books, finding new unread books at home, or visiting the local library. At the start of the pandemic, on March 16, 2020, the Fluvanna County Public Library (FCPL) closed the building to the public, however, the very next day, they offered curbside pickup only services, which still continues today.

Throughout the pandemic, the library has adjusted like many others to reach the needs of its patrons, while also keeping everyone as safe as possible. On June 22, 2020, the FCPL added computer appointments and then browsing appointments were added at the beginning of October 2020. However, the new year temporarily suspended browsing appointments due to rising positivity rates, but on Feb.  9, browsing appointments were reinstated.

“All appointments start at the top of the hour, for example, 10 a.m., 11 a.m., etc. and go to 45 minutes after the hour,” said Library Director Cyndi Hoffman, “This gives the library staff 15 minutes to sanitize between appointments. Appointments are limited and masks are required the entire time someone is in the library.”

In addition to browsing and computer appointments, the library also offers free Wi-Fi, and it is available 24/7. For those not comfortable going inside the building, people can access the Wi-Fi parked in their car or from the created outdoor seating area under the covered walkway in the back, now with patio heaters due to the chillier weather. Since March 16 to the end of December, the FCPL has provided Wi-Fi to 8,583 users, browsing appointments to 605 people, and 847 computer appointments.

Unfortunately, circulation of materials overall is down, meaning less people were checking out library materials. The main reason that this could be is the pandemic itself and the building being closed at the beginning, but Hoffman also thinks it could have been because the library was unable to do their big Summer Reading program that is sponsored by the Friends of the Library every summer.

“During performances we would have hundreds of people at the library and smaller workshops all week long, so a lot of traffic and people checking out items,” said Hoffman.

On the other hand, Hoffman and the library staff have seen new patrons as they are allowing people to get new library cards over the phone and then requiring a photo ID the first time they come to pick up their items. Overall, eBook usage is also up, and the puzzle circulation is almost triple over last year. They also started ‘Grab n Go” kits, which are sponsored by the Friends of the Library. Upcoming kits will be available on the second Saturday of March and April at 10 a.m. and will be on a first come first serve basis while supplies last. There are kits for preschoolers, kids, teens, and even adults.

Another adaptation the library has made during the pandemic is ‘Virtual Zoom Story Time,’ which are held on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. Children can participate if a parent or guardian email’s Library Assistant Keri Anne Penick (kpenick@fluvannacounty.org) with the child’s name and age, who will then be placed on a list. Once on the list a link will be provided to participate. Currently, ‘Virtual Zoom Story Time’ is serving 44 families with 52 children.

For those wanting to learn more about what the Fluvanna County Library has to offer at this time, its website is up to date with the latest information along with resources such as Overdrive for eBooks and audiobooks, Rosetta Stone, which is free when using a library card number, EBSCO eBooks, and more.

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