Burns Lake Public Library had an extremely busy year in 2020, despite and because of the pandemic.
When the pandemic first reared its head, the library had to shut its doors to public on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, but the staff quickly came up with a plan to offer services without the patrons having to step inside.
“This past March when most of the libraries in the province closed their doors to the public, our Burns Lake Library staff felt they just could not deprive our community access to at least what bare-bone services we could still offer. Burns Lake Public Library was one of the first libraries in the Province to implement Curbside Service. We never stopped the service, we moved directly to a different avenue,” said Monika Willner, the library director.
The library started the curbside service on Mar. 24, 2020 and continued to offer it for the vulnerable groups even after the library started its regular, in-person service.
“From the start of the Curbside Service to the time we opened our doors, 7,515 items were delivered to the public,” said Willner adding that the total number of books borrowed throughout the year including inter-library loans was 20,916.
Not only was there an increase in the number of books being checked out in 2020, but there was also an increase in some pandemic related titles being checked out.
Two books in particular became quite popular at the start of the pandemic — Soap and Water & Common Sense, The definitive guide to viruses’ bacteria, parasites, and disease by Bonnie Henry and The Great Influenza, The story of the deadliest pandemic in history by John M. Barry.
The library also saw several other titles being checked out frequently, Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman Cooks to Julie Hall’s The Narcissist in your life, Recognizing the patterns and learning to break free.
”Almost immediately after the first wave of the pandemic hit, we saw a serious increase of interest in DIY (do it yourself) books. Interest in gardening also became quite popular. Many people were coming and telling us, that this would be their first attempt at growing their own food,” said Willner.
The library also lent 884 magazines and 3,995 DVD’s.
“Once we came closer to the winter months and the second wave, people started to search more for uplifting literature. Mystery and psycho thrillers are always popular despite the times,” said Willner. The five books that topped the list of this year’s reading lists for patrons were Blue Moon a Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child, The Night Fire by Michael Connelly, The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and Alone in the Wild by Kelly Armstrong.
The library staff also experienced an increased number of phone calls everyday.
“Staff received 25 to 30 phone calls a day, compared to something more like 15 to 20 calls per day, prior to COVID. The additional calls were not only to order reading materials, DVD’s or Audiobooks. There were also a number of calls requesting instruction on how to use our online resources, how to download ebooks and audio books, as well as digital magazines we have available,” said Willner, adding that the staff spent roughly 6.5 hours on calls every day, to not just aid with library-related services, but also to just have some semblance of human contact.
“Staff were also receiving phone calls from our regular patrons who just wanted to talk on the phone because they felt lonely. This aspect alone, reflects not only how needed and varied our services are for our community, but speaks to the lengths our staff will go to, to accommodate and help our patrons,” she said.
The Burns Lake Public Library also saw 67 new patrons register during 2020. Several patrons also showed their appreciation for the library staff’s services over the holidays.
“Our patrons showed us their genuine appreciation during the Christmas Season with thank you cards, flowers and goodies. It made us feel that all the difficult days and extra effort required over this past year, were not only well worth the struggles, but that the challenge gave us all insight as to just how much we can accomplish by coming together as a team and focusing on the positive aspects,” said Willner.
While it has been just a week since the library opened up after the holidays, the staff is already busy.
“Our intent is to carry on as the strong team that we are, offering all we can to our community in this new and promising year of 2021, as this can only benefit us all. It seems as though the only thing any of us can really count on, is that changes will continue,” concluded Willner.