Okemos Capital Area District Library provides multiple services during COVID-19

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Okemos Capital Area District Library, which is located at  4321 Okemos Rd. in Okemos, Michigan, provides non-contact services during the COVID-19. Photo by Zewei Li.

Earlier this week, Betsy Hull, the head librarian of Okemos Capital Area District Library, saw a mother and her little girl walking around the library looking in the windows, wanting to go to the play area. 

“I want them to come in,” said Hull. “But I can’t let them yet. We’ve been closed to the public due to COVID-19. That made me sad.” 

According to the current health conditions and guidelines issued by the Ingham County Health Department and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Okemos Capital Area District Library restricts the number of public access and provides contactless services. 

Here is an audio interview of Hull:

Difficulties faced by the library during the pandemic

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the Okemos Library. 

“Before COVID, we would have hundreds of people a day,” said Chris Potts, the public services librarian from Okemos Capital Area District Library. “It was easy to get 300 people a day before. Now, no one comes into the building, unless they have a computer appointment. We’re typically only about four people a day right now.”

COVID-19 not only caused difficulties for libraries but also changed the way librarians work. Hung Chun Wu, the library assistant of Okemos Library, helps patrons access library resources, such as books they need. In the past, Wu communicated with people face to face, but now he can only help the public through the Internet.

“We actually do more work than before COVID-19,” said Wu. “We actually sometimes can have a break. But now it’s like, every minute, we have something to do.”

Public services provided by the library

“We had very early on pivot our services to a different model to face COVID-19,” said Scott Duimstra, executive director of Capital Area District Libraries. “We need to figure out how to deliver our services in a way that benefits both staff and the general public as well.”

Okemos Capital Area District Library provides Computer Access and Contactless Pick-up Services for the public. Those services ensure the public can use library resources even during the pandemic. 

To increase the connection with the public, the library also held many online events, like adult monthly book groups, weekly Spanish conversation groups, weekly kids English as a second language classes and so on. These activities can involve people of all ages and nationalities in the community.

“Literacy, reading is a big component that has always been in public libraries,” said Hull. “Libraries still have a mission and a history of being a community center, where people come together for adult enrichment, adult education.”

Okemos Capital Area District Library has not yet determined the specific time to reopen. Hull remains optimistic about the future. 

“Things will be different and they are not going to go back to the old way,” she said. “I think they can be better.”

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