What Are Librarians Doing While Libraries Are Closed? Planning Summer Reading and Much More. | SLJ COVID-19 Survey

Reworking summer reading programs is the number one task being performed by public librarians who work with kids and teens, according to SLJ's survey. But the report shows a wide variety of work being done.

After spending so much time finalizing summer reading program plans, youth services librarians find themselves scrambling to rework the popular program with the uncertainty of continued closures and public health measures such as social distancing in effect. Planning summer reading was the top task cited when youth services librarians were asked what they are doing while the library building is closed to patrons.

SLJ conducted the Youth Services in Public Libraries COVID-19 Response Survey from April 23 to May 5 and received responses from 570 public librarians. Beyond feedback concerning summer reading, recording story times, creating virtual programming, and finding ways to promote kids' and teens' collections online, the survey showed that librarians are performing a wide variety of tasks despite the majority of them working remotely.

About half of respondents said they are ordering books and creating booklists for young patrons, and many of those who spend a portion or all of their work hours in the library building are using this time for inventory, weeding, and collection analysis. (About 70 percent of librarians are working remotely, with approximately seven percent reporting to the library building and nearly 20 percent working remotely and going into the building at times.)

Read: Public Librarians Are Working, Making Plans While Facing an Unknown Future | SLJ COVID-19 Survey

Wherever they are, librarians are working to get digital library cards to kids, licensing e-content to reduce hold times, and helping parents with online learning. There is also plenty of professional development happening via webinars and online workshops. Some librarians are taking this time to learn new skills, such as video editing, which can be particularly useful during the crisis, but in the future as well.

Working outside the library can be as labor-intensive, even more so, than the day-to-day before the pandemic. One respondent is creating a job portal and training videos for teens and adults, managing and editing all content from the library system for teens, and managing teen volunteers who are working on youth-led virtual programs such as a literature and art magazine. 

The tasks noted in the survey show that library professionals are trying to provide the services they did before as best they can, keeping in mind the needs of the community. One librarian, for example, is doing one-on-one college prep sessions, while another is working on a community outreach program to provide books and activities to partner organizations that work with at-risk families.

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