2020 began like previous years with the Blaine Library’s usual slate of programs – children’s storytimes, LEGO, Slime, and chess clubs, teen gaming and art groups, and gardening and travel classes for adults.
Of course, life changed at day’s end on Saturday, March 12, when all WCLS locations were closed due to the pandemic. Blaine Library patrons, having anticipated this coming and wanting to stock up for the following weeks, checked out an unprecedented 3,686 items in seven hours.
For what turned out to be the next 12 weeks, library staff worked from home creating and delivering online programming, and promoting the wide variety of digital resources through WCLSStaff@Home videos. As a result, patrons learned how to knit using Creativebug videos, searched family history with Ancestry.com, or learned a new language with Mango Languages.
Work-from-home staff also answered phones calls, helping to connect patrons to the library’s online eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and music, or access the popular streaming video service Kanopy. They aided people in finding appropriate health and economic resources, employment opportunities, and homeschooling helps.
Others lent a compassionate ear to those folks who were alone and isolated, maybe with no cable or internet access, and who just wanted to speak to another human being. Staff were asked to read portions of the Bible, the AA manual or from callers’ favorite inspirational authors. It was a humbling and satisfying experience for staff to be able to help people cope in such personal and meaningful ways.
On June 8, staff was allowed to return to the building under strict guidelines as defined by Washington State’s Safe Start Plan, CDC recommendations and the health department. At that time, library patrons could finally return their library items and place item requests by phone or from the WCLS website for curbside pickup.
Over the following weeks, the library system added other no-contact services such as curated to-go bags of books, dvds, magazines, and board games, document printing and pickup, and a laptop for use in the library parking lot. While free Wi-Fi was available throughout the year, it was upgraded to encompass a wider service area and provide optimum connectivity.
The Blaine Library was able to reopen its doors to the public in a limited way for three weeks in November, but was directed to close again by the health department. Once the green light is given to reopen, patrons will again be able to reserve a time to enter the building to browse the collections and use the public computers. Seating areas and meeting rooms will remain unavailable until Phases 3 and 4. In the meantime, the popular curbside services, rich digital resources and qualified staff will continue to provide Blaine Library patrons with quality library experiences.
The Friends of the Blaine Library thank the community for its overwhelming support and input during the Blaine Library Design Project.
After determining that the current building was at the end of life, the architectural firms of Johnston Architects and King Architecture completed a new building design right when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. The friends are now gearing up to see the vision become reality in the coming years.