Q&A with Julie Chrisinske, head librarian at the CADL in Williamston

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This is a screenshot from a Zoom interview with Julie Chrisinske

Madison Kort

Julie Chrisinske, head librarian at the Capital Area District Library in Williamston, looks forward to holding more outdoor programs at the library this spring.

Williamston library-goers can look forward to a return to in-person events and a more interactive experience this spring at CADL, said head librarian Julie Chrisinske. Chrisinske is optimistic that warmer weather will allow library patrons to participate in events outdoors.

COVID-19 challenged many aspects of the library, from shutting down completely in 2020 to difficulties planning programs. CADL events are usually planned far in advance, said Chrisinske, so the constant changes related to the pandemic made scheduling long-term events a formidable task. 

Chrisinske said the CADL staff is faced with the task of balancing Williamston library patrons’ demand for in-person events and the reality of the pandemic, yet she remains hopeful that things will get better in the coming months.

Spartan Newsroom Reporter Madison Kort spoke with Julie Chrisinske about upcoming events at the CADL in Williamston, and how COVID-19 is impacting her job at the library. For her interview, go to this YouTube link.

Kort: Please tell me about your job and your responsibilities at the library.

Chrisinske: Ok, I am a Head Librarian of a branch of Capital Area District Libraries, we have 13 branches and each has a head librarian, and I’m here in Williamston.

Kort: What’s something that you look forward to with the library this year, I know it’s been a challenging time.

Chrisinske: I can’t wait until it warms up so we can start doing some more programs outside. We have been hesitant to do things inside at a very large scale because of everything with the pandemic, but we have found that people really have responded to doing things outside, like our storytime. In the fall, when it was still nice, we took our rug out there, and that’s where we had storytime for all of our little ones, and they loved it.

We have gotten very creative, and we are looking forward to learning new ways to be even more creative as the year goes on.

Kort: Yeah, definitely. So you mentioned the outside storytime, that sounds very interesting to me. Are there plans for that in the spring or in the summer?

Chrisinske: Absolutely, and we’re going to take every opportunity we have to get outside into the open air. Our Friends of the Library group bought us a canopy that we can pitch outside in the yard if we want to do something out there. In the past we’ve done our messy stuff outside with tables; we’ve done tie-dyeing with our teens and done outside games and stuff like that, so we’re definitely going to embrace that and do as much as we can out there because the fresh air is good for everyone.

Kort: What’s been the most impactful change that you’ve had to make?

Chrisinske: I would say planning programming has been one of the most important things and one of the most challenging things, and I would say that for myself and all of my colleagues. We have meetings to talk about it because we plan very far ahead within CADL so we can work with our marketing department to do promotion early on. 

And, just trying to balance, you know, what our expectations are, what we know the response to programming is, and balance that with the facts of the day, that there is a virus and that it is spreading. It’s just that constant trying to balance that safety and the facts with our desire to connect with our patrons and our desire to do lots of programming and to do lots of services. We miss seeing your faces too, you know? We’ve definitely adapted, and we’ve tried to set a standard for the community and be an example that you can work with a mask on and you can function every day, and you can care about other people around you with zero stress, with zero dismay. We function fine, take a mask break if you need it, and it’s really for the most part been a very, very positive experience. 

Kort: Good, so that actually brings me to my final question for you, very briefly., I was just going to ask what the most challenging or hardest part about dealing with COVID, which you already touched on, but could you expand?

Chrisinske: There are a lot of things that have been challenging about COVID, I could give you a laundry list. I would say just the fact that people aren’t coming into the library as much. They are using our other resources though, they’re still using library resources, but we do miss seeing folks. 

There are some of our regulars who still aren’t comfortable coming back, even though we still do things like door-side service if you don’t want to come in. We will still do a grab-and-go bag for you; if you need some recommendations we’ll surprise you with some titles, and things like that. We have a wide range of services that we can offer people and still work in their comfort zone, but I look forward to having big groups back again. We used to have huge programs that we would have 100 people come to; that is just not reality at this point. We do miss that, we miss the energy of having all of those excited folks come in, and having everyone network together and chat together and enjoy and be entertained together. 

I think just moderating our expectations and just using common sense, that can be a challenge sometimes when we’re in a long-haul like this, so we’re just trying to stay optimistic and keep supporting each other and have a little grace, and still make sure people know we have such a vast array of offerings that we can help them with.

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