As of this week, we have received 163 responses to the COVID/Cares Act survey sent to libraries, representing a 65% response rate. The input of libraries has been valuable to NLC planning for Cares Act funding. Stay tuned for more information about that, but for now, it might be helpful to summarize the survey results.
The survey asked what libraries are doing to prepare for re-opening, and what the concerns are upon re-opening. This bar chart at the top illustrates the results, and note that libraries could choose more than one response. Cleaning, handling of materials, and programming topped the list. However, it is important to note that many libraries are concerned about the proximity of patrons in various areas of the library (e.g. meeting rooms, computer labs, etc.). Some noted a potential shift when re-opening to provide extended computer lab hours in order to accommodate needs, or providing more mobile devices for check out (inside or outside of the library) in order to provide social distance.
As far as staffing goes, we know that some libraries have experienced RIF’s (reduction in force), and layoffs, but this has not been the norm. Over 30% of respondents reported all staff reporting to work, and over 30% reported at least the director reporting to work. It is appropriate to note that many libraries only have one primary staff person (the director). Only 6% reported that no staff were coming to work. Numerous libraries are offering alternative services, as over 75% reported providing curbside circulations and over 40% reported providing virtual programming. 90% of survey respondents reported completing tasks associated with circulation and mail processing. This likely includes cleaning and quarantining items, and almost 75% reported maintenance, security, and cleaning tasks performed by staff.
The survey also asked about what the library’s needs are upon re-opening. Topping the list is an alternative to in-person summer reading events, and making sure items are clean and safe by providing adequate sanitizing and protective equipment. This chart at the right shows those results.
Finally, some of the open-ended answers give insight into longer-term needs of libraries to address community concerns and prepare for the future. Anecdotally, some of these responses include the following:
- Expanding the range of Wi-Fi to areas outside of the library, allowing for users to be more spread out;
- Device lending to community members that do not have their own (e.g. laptop, tablet computers);
- Providing relevant information about COVID-19 to the community;
- Online/virtual programming;
- eBook and Audiobook availability and access;
- Providing materials (clean and sanitized) such as books, puzzles, music, videos, games, and activity packs to quarantined or at risk groups;
- Improve internet speed and infrastructure to handle increased demands;
- Printing, copy, and fax services (providing with lower touch);
- Reference and partnerships with organizations to support unemployment, economic recovery, small business, and other assistance; and
- Hotspot lending.
Many libraries are now evaluating their technology, network infrastructure, and Wi-Fi (range, speed, etc.). Did you know that NLC offers FREE technology assessments and help to you? If you are interested, please check out our Better Broadband webpage for resources, and to move forward towards an assessment, contact ,Holly Woldt.