PORT AUX BASQUES – Jodi McNeil says that COVID-19 has definitely slowed things down for the local library. McNeil has been with the library for the past three years, and was only able to re-open the library to the public three weeks ago.
The initial closure came last March, when the provincial health authority began issuing closure notices for public facilities and buildings. The library re-opened for curbside pickup sometime around the end of last summer.
“We closed for almost a year,” says McNeil. “We were closed completely down for a few months. We opened back up just for curbside pickup then, but a lot of people didn’t know about it, and a lot of people didn’t know what curbside pickup really was.”
Library patrons can call in with the names of books they want to borrow, and library staff will even order titles in from other branches if necessary. The books are then packaged for contact-less pickup in compliance with COVID-19 regulations.
During the closure, patrons would send messages to McNeil, who was working from home, asking for help installing the Libby app to check out books online.
Prior to the pandemic, McNeil estimates the library would get on average about a dozen visitors a day.
“Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on if we had programs on the go,” estimates McNeil.
These days that number is closer to three. That may be due to people remaining cautious, but another factor is likely that the library programs are still currently cancelled.
“We haven’t had any since we closed last year in March, and they’re not sure when we’re going to be able to start that back up again,” admits McNeil. “Our biggest stat was our kids programming.”
Before the pandemic, the Port aux Basques Public Library used to offer around three programs a week. The Storytime program alone would draw in anywhere from 15 to 30 children. McNeil sympathizes with parents anxious to return their children to that schedule.
“We’ve definitely had people calling and asking when it’s going to start back up again, because there’s not a lot to do around here for toddler-age, and they said the gym is not open yet at the Bruce II for toddlers.”
Now that the library has re-opened, parents are slowly bringing their children in to get some new books to read at home. A couple are coming in regularly now, three or four times a week.
During the pandemic, there wasn’t a lot of new books or magazines coming into the library, but that is quickly changing too.
“Since we’ve opened back up for curbside, it was slowly starting to trickle back in again. I’d say in the last month, we’ve been getting a steady flow of stuff coming back in again.”