Ontario Public Library Week is here! To mark the occasion, we’re celebrating the many ways that libraries support their communities during times of crisis. In a two-part blog series, we’ll look at how libraries are adapting to the ever-changing landscape of public service during a pandemic and how libraries act as “second responders” during disasters. 

Despite the challenges libraries have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have found safe and efficient ways to continue to serve customers while branching into surprising new areas of service. Here at Brampton Library, we’re incorporating social distancing and new safety procedures by offering curbside pickup, initiating in-branch sanitization protocols, and facilitating programs online, to name just a few examples. But did you know that we also helped to produce PPE for healthcare workers? Supporting the CovidStop.ca initiative, organized by Shop3D.ca, we printed 335 face shields and 1,768 mask straps using 3D printers from our MakerSpaces.

Libraries had to get creative -- fast! -- to mobilize their resources to support urgent community needs in new ways. Turning on a dime, libraries have forged new partnerships, distribution channels, and services to reach community members where they are needed most. Our neighbours at Milton Public Library used their 3D printer to produce face shield headbands in partnership with Inksmith. Toronto Public Library ran food bank locations out of several of their branches in collaboration with North York Harvest Food Bank, Daily Bread Food Bank and Second Harvest. They also used their bookmobile to bring Wi-Fi hotspots to two Toronto parks.  

The same trend is happening south of the border, where libraries are innovating with their existing resources. San Francisco library branches and recreation centres used their spaces to host emergency childcare centres for frontline workers. In Christiansburg, Virginia, the Montgomery County Public Schools Library delivered books to students by drone, through a partnership with Wing, a drone delivery service. 

While libraries navigate changes and find innovative solutions, staff remains the driving force behind the library’s success. Library staff have stepped out of their comfort zones to take on new roles, maintain health and safety protocols, and deliver programs, services and materials almost completely online. Librarians in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Wake County have even become COVID-19 contact tracers in an effort to support their communities. 

As library services continue to evolve and staff take on a variety of new technical skills and challenges, they continue to find innovative ways to meet their communities’ needs. We can't help but wonder how this will transform library service in 2021 and beyond! 

Stay tuned for part two of our blog post series, where we take a closer look at libraries’ roles during some historic, large-scale disasters. Looking for more ways to celebrate Ontario Public Library Week? Enjoy our Story Walk <insert link to Evanced entry> in Chinguacousy Park, featuring “Say Something!” by Canadian author, Peter H. Reynolds or fill out our customer survey <insert link to survey> for a chance to win an iPad! 

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