Despite COVID-19, the Rimbey Municipal Library has continued to stay incredibly busy according to Library Manager Jean Keetch.
Since restrictions forced the library to shut down, staff has been offering curbside service, mail delivery and some online programming. The need for at-home learning and reading materials has led to Keetch and her team purchasing new materials as fast as they can, in addition to also providing at home activities and programming for younger children.
“We are also making activity kids, which can give something for the kids to do for up to three hours. We have non-fiction books, along with an activity to go along with them. We have had birdhouse kits, some birdfeeder kits and we have some dinosaur kits which are amazing,” she said.
The library has also invested in additional e-books and audiobooks, which was made easier by the Town of Rimbey, Ponoka County and the Province continuing to fully-fund the library.
“The reason I am able to higher summer students and keep our staff employed is because of our municipalities. Both the Town of Rimbey and Ponoka County have decided to keep our requisition, along with the Provincial Government,” Keetch said.
What has been difficult to replicate in during COVID-19 is the social importance libraries play in communities
“It has been heartbreaking for us, particularly for our marginalized folks. We have been phoning our patrons who we know are alone,” Keetch said. “Not everyone can afford enough data. Data in Canada is expensive and I have written a grant where I can hopefully purchase some Telus Hubs. People can borrow those for data.
“We have wifi outside of our building, so people are able to use that outside out building.”
Some of that social service can return in Phase 2 of the Alberta relaunch plan, which has yet to have a confirmed date. Keetch and her staff have already begun preparing their procedures including limited their computer access to two stations in order to ensure social distancing, and purchasing plexi-glass sneeze guards to ensure the safety of clients and staff.
Keetch said access to book stacks will continue after reopening in order to protect clients.
“There is no possible way patrons can go into the stacks, pickup books and put them back. We have decided they can come to the desk and we will go get anything they want. They can look at it and if they don’t want it, it will be put into quarantine,” she said.
Even with doors being closed and services being suspended, the library still loaned out 1,000 items, with over 58 per cent of their collection being out.
“Since other libraries are not offering the same services as us, we have been mailing books to other libraries in the Parkland region. We mailed out around 200 books in the the last month to places like Lacombe, Blackfalds and Rocky Mountain House. It is quite amazing,” she said
She added, “Libraries are extraordinarily important and it is not just books — it is programming as well.”