Our next guest blog post in response to this request is from Maureen Dorosinski and the various regional librarians of Florida.
The Library is part of the Division of Blind Services, which is under the Florida Department of Education. First the school closings came, then the stay at home order. We were told to telework as much as possible. We were an 'essential service'. Our circulation and production staff core duties are not able to be performed remotely, while reader advisor services and other responsibilities could be performed remotely. Others applied for telework, trying to find a way to be out of the library around people, but without enough leave to cover the duration of the stay at home order. We have vulnerable category staff. Additionally, our OPS part time staff in circulation, had decided to simply take unpaid leave. This left circulation extremely short handed. About half staff, when we were already two positions short. The outlook is bleak and morale is low because now there is a hiring freeze and one position is on hold. One production staff member worked in both areas simultaneously.
Then, COVID came to the library. We were told "someone in the building tested positive", and were given the last date they were in the library, the details were not clear but then, the staff just cleared out. We are behind and had been shifting quarantine back, and also, had been operating day to day as to who was in and able to do what.
All we can do now is wait until April 30 and see if there are any changes. Staff have contacted me frantic and desperate to get more information...and I have none to offer. I wonder myself what if someone tests positive in this time. Do I trust these results will be disclosed? What do I do for myself, and my family, if I have vulnerable people in my life?
After I wrote this, I opened it up this morning, Friday, April 24. Some else on campus has tested positive, and now we are out until May 7. That above scenario was again repeated when we were told we needed to close because someone else tested positive on campus, rehab center staff, and then we adjusted the reopening times twice. Luckily KLAS staff as well as subregional staff were able to help button up the day, and redistribute service throughout the rest of the open libraries. A good deal of patrons will be able to be served with the FL network pulling together!
Rereading my notes, everyone is even more confused, and my morning was consumed with getting information and timesheets and testing sites, and creating telework tasks for those who do not have any sort of technology at home, nor a job that has a real remote counterpart and looked up and breathed and just hoped everyone turns out okay.
On service to patrons: Kim Peters at FL1D had a great idea, to ask for a report of patrons who have met their limit so she could go into their accounts and raise their limits right away. John Owen pulled together such a report, and she was able to raise many patrons so service would continue. He then did a similar thing for FL1A, and we are applying it as well. Thousands of patrons will now have service continue uninterrupted, while their returns wait at the post office, or on our loading dock in quarantine, until we get back into the office. For patrons that had reached their NSCutOff after January 1, 2020, we would raise their limit by 10 books. This would target those patrons most likely to benefit from the increase, those that are most active. Patrons not at their NSCutOff yet are being served by open libraries now and books received after April 22nd will be from those branches. Once the books are returned and checked in these patrons will be eligible for more service.
All of the SRLS who are open, are to be commended for their willingness to help by raising their card run limits in order to serve Florida. We are so grateful for their dedication and extra work during this time:
- FL1G, Sarah Smedley and her team in Palm Beach County
- FL1H, Bill Forbes and his team in Broward County
- FL1K, Debra Martin and her team in Brevard County
- FL1M, Megan Magee and her team in Pinellas County
- FL1L, Greg Jackson and his team in Escambia County, West Florida Public Library
The same gratitude goes to the entire KLAS team as well, especially John Owen and Nancy Honeycutt.
-Maureen Dorosinski, FL1A Librarian
Meeting patrons needs by mail during Coronavirus
Due to the high rate of COVID-19 cases in Miami-Dade County, the Miami-Dade Public Library System closed to the public on March 18, 2020. On Thursday March 19th my supervisor contacted me about the possibility of using our Borrow-by-Mail service to send out the backlog of holds that customers were unable to pick up due to branch closures. Borrow-by-Mail is a fee based service that allows patrons to place requests from our catalog and have them mailed to their home address for a $4.00 fee. It was decided that we would waive the fee and start asking branches in groups of 3-4 to call the patrons, ask if they want their holds shipped and ship the books to our Books-by-Mail and Borrow-by-Mail Departments called Connections. Connections is located at the North Dade Regional Library right next to our Talking Books Department. I supervise both departments.
We manage Borrow-by-Mail using Polaris and a Neopost machine. It is a slow process but we can incorporate tracking numbers which are listed in the patrons record. It is also nice because Polaris generates mailing labels and a letter with instructions. It was decided we would eliminate tracking numbers to speed up the process since we were not charging for the service at this time. We processed about 140 items over three afternoons before we were sent home on March 24th. After we were sent home, a team of employees were asked to report to the Main Library and branch staff were asked to check out the holds that patrons wanted and send them to Main to be mailed out. They decided to bypass the Borrow-by-Mail function to expedite the processing. Hundreds of holds were sent out by the staff working at the Main Library.
While that was happening, one of my staff from Connections, one from Talking Books and myself were set up with a laptop with remote access to our desktop so we could start placing requests for patrons. We discovered KLAS and Polaris worked surprisingly well this way. The first day I was able to access KLAS, I began having the Talking Books phones forwarded to my personal cell and I received over 30 calls. Many of the patrons were extremely concerned about the well-being of the staff. They were also tremendously grateful that we were taking requests and that other libraries around the state would be shipping items out.
Unfortunately, I began receiving calls and emails that some of our patrons had not received the Borrow-by-Mail holds they had been expecting. As it turned out, a large shipment was sent to Connections shortly before we were sent home and arrived after we had closed up. Doris, my Connections Manager and I ventured back into North Dade Regional and shipped 178 items to 76 customers in 7 hours. Then, I started receiving calls from Talking Books customers stating they weren't receiving their cartridges. Well as it turns out, some of the Talking Books has been assigned to FL1C by mistake. Maureen Dorosinski from Daytona and John Owen from KLAS ran a report for me and we were able to assign the items to an open library.
On Friday April 17th, Post Office informed us that they had to start delivering our mail at North Dade Regional again due to the large quantity of items. Twenty crates of cartridges were delivered on Friday morning and two more shipments were on the way. Four of my staff (3 pages and one librarian) and myself plan to report to North Dade Regional on Monday April 20th to get a handle on the backlog. More to come....
-Jennifer Shipley, Library Operations Manager
Miami-Dade Public Library System
The list John prepared for me is excellent as it identifies all those already maxed out. I've already increased NS cutoff for about 70+ patrons and have about 200 more to go. Most are folks who only get a couple of books a week and had low cutoffs of 12 books. I am catching it in time as most got their last delivery last week.
I've been so worried about my patrons having books and this is a blessing!
Our policy changes have been: no one except staff in building (including volunteers we have had to pick up their work), stay 6 ft apart, Wednesdays off except printing and mailing the run, we also had to suspend our cleaning service and have been assigned many cleaning duties to keep the building running.
Our stats have changed because we no longer are having people "walk-in" as patrons, but our phone number and email count have been through the roof. Way higher than normal. The staff have been slammed with so many patrons asking for 10, 20 books at a time because they are locked in their rooms in nursing home facilities and it is the only thing they have to do. Staff have been doing their best to keep up with the new high demands, but they are definitely feeling a strain and are having to push through the weariness. One of our staff has been out for 10 days because she had a fever. She was tested for Covid-19 and the test results came back today, four days after her test as negative.
Personally, it has been a strange transition with new information and policies changing daily. It is mentally taxing, and there is so much work to be done. I am sad to say there are even times I have felt unsafe at work simply by having to leave my house and see coworkers from a distance in the building due to what the media and CDC have deemed as safe. It is tiresome because I live with one other person who has been working from home since March 12th. I am the only person in my household who interacts with other people. I will be fully responsible if I get my household sick. This is a scary weight I have been carrying everyday I come to work. I had to decide what was worth it to me. I decided my job was a worthy cause worth doing and that as long as we were expected to show up, I would. I know every person who is working during this time is probably going through something similar.
One silver-lining has been the patrons are more grateful than ever. They claim we are saving their lives by providing something to do while they are stuck in their nursing home rooms with no one and nothing to do. Hearing them be grateful has been the best part of this whole experience.
Talking Book Library Services Coordinator
Pinellas Public Library Cooperative
Good morning. Emails and phone messages sent on Wednesday are answered on Thursday due to limited Wednesday service. We have 3 office staff currently pulling now, so we are fine! We are more than happy to help out. A mail card limit of 1500 a day is fine. 1200 yesterday and 606 today.
Phone is off the hook nowadays and I do about 20 patron ILLS a day now and there are 3 of us!
We are staying afloat. God Bless you guys in Daytona!
Public Services Specialist
Pinellas Talking Book Library
We are still operating as usual. Our volunteers are not allowed to come in.
With the exception of a dip immediately following the WHO's pandemic declaration, circulation has risen on a year-to-year comparison by week.
Stay well, everyone!
West Florida Public Libraries