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 The curbside pickup service at the Bloomfield Township Public Library has been a popular option for residents who want to borrow materials without risking their safety.

The curbside pickup service at the Bloomfield Township Public Library has been a popular option for residents who want to borrow materials without risking their safety.

Photo provided by Tera Moon

Libraries shine during COVID-19 quarantine

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 22, 2020


BIRMINGHAM/BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — Because of e-books, movies and music that can be downloaded from anywhere to virtually any device, streaming media has proved itself these past several months to be the hero of quarantine.

And the same way libraries have opened their shelves to residents for generations, their online collections have been provided to quell the boredom of families from the comfort and safety of their home.

That’s what Bloomfield Township Public Library Assistant Director Tera Moon said. During the COVID-19 shutdown, the library’s social media pages increased by 200 followers who wanted to stay informed about what new services the library’s website offered.

“Usage of e-resources like e-books, audiobooks and movies increased during the quarantine when residents were staying home,” Moon explained in an email. “Library staff worked throughout the three-month period to continually buy new digital content, buy more copies of popular content and process ‘e-cards,’ which are library user accounts that give access to online content.”

At the Baldwin Public Library, e-book usage has jumped 19% since March, and database visits — where guests can check item availability online — have increased 41%.

Online resources became so popular at both facilities that staff tweaked some of their regularly scheduled in-house programming to be virtually accessible, like book talks streamed on videoconferencing sites.

“This was brand-new territory for us, but something we are excited about, are working on and improving and are looking to sustain us throughout the year as the possibility of gathering in large groups (remains) uncertain,” Moon said. “Staff also became pretty good at working remotely and finding new ways of connecting with each other using technology.”

At the Baldwin Public Library, in downtown Birmingham, they’ve moved in-person events online too.

“Fortunately, we have been able to pivot to offering lots of virtual programs, including five weekly story times, author interviews on Instagram live, seven monthly book clubs hosted on Zoom for teens and adults, online computer software classes, and virtual lectures,” Rebekah Craft, the assistant director of the Baldwin Public Library, said in an email. “I’m so impressed with how creative and thoughtful our librarians have been in creating new experiences for our patrons while in-person programming is not safe.”

Earlier in the crisis, BPL staff has used its technology assets to help first responders fight the virus itself.

In late March, Baldwin Public Library staff began to produce face shields with the 3D printers in the library’s new Idea Lab to be donated to nearby hospitals. They were composed of a 3D-printed head bracket, with a sheet of clear acetate attached to act as the shield. The lab’s 11 printers can produce the shields at a rate of one every three minutes.

The Friends of the Baldwin Public Library donated $2,300 to the effort to purchase supplies that would create 2,000 face shields, according to Jeff Jimison, the supervisor of the library’s Idea Lab.

As Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has slowly allowed parts of the state to reopen to in-person visits again over the past several weeks, libraries have been preparing to welcome back patrons with new cleaning protocols and other protective measures you’ve likely seen before, like social distancing cues on the floor and plastic shields at checkouts.

Currently, the Bloomfield Township Public Library offers curbside pickup for materials, and sometime after July 4, Moon said, she hopes the facility can open for short visits or browsing by appointment.

“This public health crisis has definitely made us look hard at our service model and think differently about how we encourage library use and what we are to the community,” Moon continued. “We are really taking things slow, and while we are planning for the future, we try to maintain an attitude of flexibility and adaptability as the future is so uncertain.”

Curbside service has been available at the Baldwin Public Library since mid-June. Residents who enjoy that option, for convenience or safety reasons, can count on that moving forward, even after the building opens to the public July 6.

“On our first day of curbside service, our patrons had placed over 800 items on hold. We receive a steady stream of pickups each day, and patrons have been so grateful to be able to use physical materials while the building is closed,” Craft said.

That’s good, because she said the Baldwin Public Library wants to make the library’s services as appealing as possible to as wide a range of patrons as they can, since this August voters in Bloomfield Hills will decide whether to continue the city’s millage to support their membership to the library.

“Advocating for the need for libraries while we are closed to the public is a difficult thing to do right before a millage vote,” Craft explained. “Right now, nearly 50% of households in Bloomfield Hills have at least one Baldwin cardholder and checked out 19,583 items last year, so we know that our services are popular with Bloomfield Hills residents.”

If residents in Bloomfield Hills don’t vote to approve continuing the 0.3766-mill contract, Craft said they would only have access to “very limited” services at the library, which would mean not being able to utilize e-resources and subscription databases.