Our next guest blog post in response to this request is from Sam Lundberg, Reader Advisor, New Mexico State Library, Library for the Blind & Print Disabled.
COVID-19 and the New Mexico Library for the Blind & Print Disabled
In large part because of our small size and flexible staff, the New Mexico LBPD has been able to stay open and continue service to all ~2,600 of our patrons. Of our 7 staff members, 5 are working from home and 2 are coming into the office daily, but never at the same time. One staffer handles all of our physical delivery, along with outgoing and incoming mail each morning. Meanwhile, the other staffer handles all DoD and equipment orders each afternoon. All of our RA work is done remotely, with our phones going directly to voicemail which we check repeatedly over the course of the day.
With New Mexico closing down hard and fast, we were able to see the shutdown coming and prepare as best we could. One of the biggest things we did was send out our newsletter early. We had a mostly complete draft ready, which we edited to include our COVID plans on the front page and rushed to get sent out. This, along with our voicemail recording, alerted each patron to the two basic facts that 1) we are still open, and 2) things will be delayed a bit. We had a minor panic attack when all staff were ordered to stay out of the State Library building on Friday of the first week, but we were quickly able to be designated as essential and limited staff allowed to return to the building on Monday.
One adjustment we made to accommodate our new staff schedule, with the help of Keystone, was to reschedule some of our nightly functions related to DoD so that they run mid-afternoon. This allows us to check in DoD cartridges and then have new orders created for those patrons the same day, preventing us from adding on an additional day of delay beyond the 4 days we are already quarantining all incoming mail.
Our patrons have generally been very understanding. We have several patrons who normally insist on a callback, or will call repeatedly until they catch a live RA, instead leave a voicemail with their order. I know I really appreciated this because those first couple weeks were rather frantic with patrons trying to order as many books as possible as nursing homes and other facilities across the state went into lockdown. We are right in the middle of our year-long DoD transition, and this provided great motivation to move many more patrons to DoD service. While we have not increased the cutoff values for our patrons across the board, we’re regularly manually assigning books well above our usual limits.
We are still calling back patrons when necessary, especially for BARD support and other more detailed problems. To avoid patrons being able to gather staff personal phone numbers, our RA responsible for the majority of callbacks set up a Google Voice temporary phone number, which she can set to “Do Not Disturb” during non-work hours. This has been an effective, if ad-hoc, solution.
This whole circumstance has offered up opportunities to tackle a few large projects that we’ve had on the back burner. Series sequence cataloging, flushing out our local subjects, and contacting inactive patrons, to name a few. We’ve also gotten involved in the Rating Unrated Books project, which is a nice change of pace when you need it.
I think we are in a stable place as a library and should be able to continue service at our current level for an extended time, although not at the highest level of service we’ve pushed hard for recently. There is outreach we’ve had to scrap and, while review of local narration projects continues, current narrations are on hold. Even though we cannot speak with every patron, we are still getting books out. Our staff will keep going like this as long as we need to, with the continued resilience and creativity necessary during these extraordinary times.