A visit to the library is usually something that people take for granted because they never had to worry about having it taken away.
However, after COVID-19 hit, visits to the library had to be modified for the safety of others. Two years later, South Lansing Library is returning to normal.
Although the library never shut down for more than a few months, changes had to be made in order to keep patrons and staff safe.
Located on Cedar Street, South Lansing Library is led by head librarian Melissa Cole, who experienced first-hand all of the required changes. She is happy to see programs such as storytelling return.
“We aren’t seeing the same numbers as we did in the past, but people are returning to the library,” Cole said.
Contributing to the number of visitors to the library is the return of their most popular event where parents bring their children to have a story read to them. The library also plans on making additions to the program list this year. Those interested can find a full list of the library’s events at Events | South Lansing – Capital Area District Library.
“We have brought back many of the programs that we did prior such as decorating pumpkins, ‘eat up and meet up’, and gingerbread house making”. Cole said.
Cole understands that some people may still feel unsafe in large groups and with close contact. That is why they offer alternatives to the programs.
“I don’t want people to forget about what we offer, so it’s time to press forward and those who feel comfortable come and those who don’t stay home, but we send home holiday craft kits for those people who do choose to stay away from large groups,” Cole said.
Some patrons of the library still choose to wear a mask when they visit out of extra precaution. The library has noticed about half of the staff and fewer than half of the visitors of the library wear masks on a daily basis.
Scott Duimstra, the library’s marketing and communications director is also happy to see the library getting back into the swing of things. He reflects on how 2020 brought on mask requirements for staff and visitors.
“We could only require someone to wear a mask if there was a health order in place because the First Amendment not only covers freedom of speech, but it also covers the freedom of access to information, which includes the library. So, we couldn’t deny access to individuals who did not want to wear masks,” Dumistra said.
Duimstra said that although numbers are not as they were pre-pandemic, they are getting fairly close. The library is only down by 15%-20% of visitors they saw before the pandemic hit.
“We are used to having a lot of people in our space and attending programs, so we were concerned about how we would survive the pandemic because people did not want to be around others. But, people did want to get out of the house again and support the library,” Dumistra said.
When visiting South Lansing Public Library, the residual signs of COVID-19 aren’t completely gone. For example, visitors can still choose to pick up and drop off books through a curbside service, and plastic sneeze guards still stand as a shield between librarians and patrons.
“We actually found that aside from COVID, the sneeze guards prevented both visitors and staff from getting sick, so we chose to keep those around,” Duimstra said.
The pandemic taught the world to never take anything for granted even something as simple as visits to the library. South Lansing Public Library continues to thrive, while still keeping in mind that the safety of others is the common goal.
“Since the pandemic, people are changing the way they act around other people, so we do try to take that into account and provide the best experience possible for our staff and patrons,” Cole said.