We have received many questions regarding how libraries throughout the state of Texas are providing services to the public. To help answer these questions, we are starting a blog post series titled Yes, We’re Open, which will interview library directors and workers throughout the state to provide snapshots in library response. In this second installment of the series, we interviewed Michael Hardrick at the Forest Hill Public Library in Forest Hill, Texas.
In what ways is your library open to the public?
We have been doing Dial-in and Drive-by (curbside) since June 1, 2020. Patrons can either call or go online to request materials. They are also able to pick up craft kits to do projects with their children at home. We are planning on allowing patrons into the library by appointment only starting July 6, 2020. They will be able to use the computers, meet tutors, fax, print, and make copies. Unfortunately, at this time patrons still will not be able to browse the collection and building access will be limited to an hour a day. We also added several digital resources for patrons to use and provide virtual programming.
How have your library’s policies and procedures changed?
Our policies have and continue to change as we navigate through this pandemic. Patrons and staff will be required to wear a mask while in the library. Patrons must request items they want to check out either online or by calling the library. There will be no browsing of library collection and no lounging in the library. We built in 15 minutes between each computer session to allow staff time to clean computer stations.
How have you adapted your library space?
We have removed all toys from the children’s area, designated six computers for public use, and currently use our meeting room to quarantine returned materials for 72 hours.
What services are you providing to vulnerable populations? For example, those who are currently experiencing homelessness, are homebound, or do not have access to the internet, technology or have limited digital literacy skills.
We currently provide Wi-Fi hotspots for patrons to checkout. These hotspots are checked out for two weeks. We also created a COVID-19 resource page for patrons to find reliable and accurate information. The library staff and the board continue to look for ways to help our patrons who have been hit the most during the pandemic.
How are you helping your staff during reopening? For example, how is the employee mental health and physical well safety being addressed?
We have staff meetings every morning to discuss what’s going on around us. What the agenda for the day is, plus time to vent. Our staff is very involved in the decision making–determining what will help them feel comfortable to open back up to the public. We are taking small steps and reopening in phases so that everyone is at ease in the way we serve our patrons.
Describe your decision-making process. How did you communicate with your governing authority?
My first thought is always what’s best for our community, how will this affect our patrons and what are the issues I can actually control and do something about. When the pandemic first hit, I was closely watching the news, listening to my peers at other libraries and looking at what the city council was planning along with the county. I had regular meetings with my staff to discuss options and then I presented a plan to our board members.
Director Michael Hardrick has worked in libraries for 18 years and just entered his second year as library director.
This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.