After a challenging 2020, Bella Vista Library Public Relations and Event Coordinator Bailley Kinser hopes to see patrons in person again in 2021.
She said 2020 was "one of the wildest years I have ever experienced here at the library."
"Starting out, we were still in the middle of our expansion project. We had collections that needed to be moved, furniture that needed to be shifted ..." she said.
She said the library ended up closing down in March due to the covid-19 pandemic, but construction tasks were still ongoing, such as installing flooring and painting.
"Through the summer we had to come up with ways to reach our patrons because they couldn't come in, for safety reasons, but we're still a valuable community asset, so we wanted to make sure we could still meet the needs of our community while still keeping everybody safe, which has been a challenge," she said.
The library started a curbside service, through which patrons could call or use the website to request items, and staff would leave them on a table outside for contactless pickup.
"Our summer reading program is always such a huge part of our year in terms of events and the sheer amount of people coming in. A lot of people are seasonal residents, so we tried to turn our program more digital. Fortunately, our program for summer reading is already digital, so that part was already online, where they log books and write reviews," Kinser said.
The library typically invites magicians or speakers for the summer reading program, and they offered a few online presentations, but, Kinser said, "it's not nearly as fun watching a magician online as in person."
She noted, "After switching to virtual learning, it's hard to ask the kids to stay on the computer a few hours longer. You definitely want the engagement, but at some point you want them to go outside and play."
Meanwhile, the construction has been completed, and library staff is now waiting for furniture to be delivered for the expansion.
The expansion includes two study rooms, a reading room where periodicals will be kept, a conference room, and a larger community room where events can be held, Kinser said.
"It's exciting to finally have all these rooms," she said. "It will allow us to have multiple programs at any given time, which is an opportunity we've never had."
The library, along with the rest of the city, is closed through the end of January, at which time leaders will re-assess whether to reopen, Kinser said.
"Our goal is to keep everyone as safe as possible," she said.
While the library is closed, there are several digital services available, including ebooks, audiobooks, TV shows, movies and music. Libraries 2 Go and Hoopla have an extensive catalog free to anyone with a library card, she said. The staff is trying to offer more digital programming. Before Christmas, the library shared a gift wrapping tutorial online, and it recently uploaded a new staff book review.
"We really miss having people come in, so it is nice to interact, even if it is in digital format," she said.
The library has a small number of staff members coming in, but they are making sure to stay separate, she said. They work from home at times and have certain days they come in. They are answering the phone and emails and, so, even though the library is closed, patrons may call or email, and the staff is happy to help, she said.