Children sit around the short shelves of the public library, reaching for its literary works. Some individuals have marked areas on every level as if to say those spots belong to them. Families go through the library foyer, whereas its staff members sort through heaps of returns.
That may appear to be a standard scene, but as for several individuals, it signifies the completion of a very long wait for the library’s reopening. After over 12 months, the government library has reopened for its services that require the personal presence of everyone concerned.
On the last day of March 2021, the NPL opened three big locations again: Its Southeast Branch, Main Library, and Madison Branch. People have to wear face masks in the venue; it also has sanitizing zones, well-spaced furniture, and prompts to maintain a six-foot distance. Even so, it seems like a familiar library: You can enter, look around the shelves, utilize public systems, plus sit and go through the books.
It temporarily stopped those services in March last year. The buildings stayed inaccessible to all except for its workers, but the establishment has not been inactive all this while. On June 08, 2020, the NPL started a service system that let patrons reserve its literary works online and pick up those beyond the library. The system has become popular soon after its launch, and it has been growing since then. Now, those regular customers check out around 4,000 physical media pieces weekly. On average, the time from reserving a product to having it available for curbside pickup is usually 3 days.
Over the last year, the work of the NPL went beyond its ongoing checkout services. It also provided several community- and education-related initiatives, which became more popular because Nashville’s inhabitants spent greater amounts of time in their residences.
For children, the establishment introduced digital programs, which include a Zoom group for kids aged between 3 and 5 years known as Homeschool Friends. The librarian at the NPL cum Homeschool Friends leader, Katie Hall said that the programs have given children and parents breaks from isolation. Individuals were only seeking ways of connecting, Hall said, and the Zoom group gave children a safe spot to not only discuss their feelings but also learn new stuff.
As for a different librarian, Cassandra Welch, many bloopers and cat appearances were initially part of leading the well-known Story Time through Zoom. Anyhow, for her, continuing communications with families caused the tech problems to be worth it. Knowing the milestones of kids is lovely, said Welch. As for her, seeing a young child dancing on the Zoom app is the best thing.
For people of all ages, the library continued its Summer Reading Challenge, the initiative that distributed prizes with curbside services. For more participation, Metro Nashville Public Schools and the library’s staff worked together to distribute reading logs for meal distribution venues. The Children’s Department of the Main Nashville Library also hosted its LEGO contest on the internet as an annual event.
More than just keeping Nashville’s community connected, the library’s employees also offered essential workers some support. The STEM laboratory of the library, namely Studio NPL created numerous mask extenders through 3D printing for more comfortable face mask fits for Meharry’s Nashville General Hospital. It also produced cloth face masks for the library’s staff, school lunch supply volunteers, as well as Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation.
As for the Studio NPL coordinator Niq Tognoni, while the transition into digital programs was isolating, it provided the studio with time for fresh ventures, such as making recorded content. Many of Studio NPL’s programs have continued digitally, plus the studio released an online workshop series about topics related to Photoshop ghost making, mending clothes, and college preparedness.
Even so, Niq Tognoni said that he is expecting to reconnect with earlier students, plus see new faces. He has missed the studio’s collaborative atmosphere, where he often saw influential community members such as inventors, artists and others. Working with them, conversing with them and seeing them grow is invigorating, said Tognoni.
Continuous community programs resulted in being more flexible as well as doing hard work to some extent for many. The NPL public information specialist, Ed Brown praised how the library’s staff adapted to an odd and challenging year. Brown described the work of the staff as ‘phenomenal’. Brown offered no specifics, but he said that opening the Madison, Main, and Southeast library locations again would serve as an experiment for more branch openings.
Hall said that the last year might have been challenging, but the children she interacted with online has inspired her.