Library use increasing as people look to get out of the house during pandemic

By William McGinn

Library programs have been on hold for the latest lockdown wave but are resuming on Feb 1. File photo, pre-COVID.

Lyndsay Heffernan remembers a call last week that probably sums up the way a lot of people are feeling these days.

The Kawartha Lakes Public Library specialist took a call from a woman who wanted to be reassured she could spend a little time at the Lindsay branch.

She wanted to know if she could “come and sit for a few minutes to read the paper. When I answered that yes, she could indeed, her reply was ‘thank God, I really need to get out of the house!’” Heffernan recalls.

The library has been that safe, go-to haven for a lot of people throughout much of the pandemic.

Like other libraries, the Kawartha Lakes system had to transition solely to pick-up services in 2020. Then they had a reopening that fall and then another shutdown in winter during the second wave. After reopening for indoor browsing a second time in July last year, they have remained open. A shift that library CEO Jamie Anderson has noticed is that people are making more use of the library than earlier.

“Before, after the first wave,” he explained, “it seemed people would come in for stuff they’d put on hold. Maybe they’d glimpse at the new bookshelves and leave. We’re now seeing people taking a lot longer in the stacks or looking for more books to take out,” than they otherwise would.  

“I think for a lot of people, even though they’re having to wear masks and people are standing behind a barrier and they’re maintaining social distance, it still gives a bit of normalcy in a not so normal world,” Anderson says.

The library’s ‘power wall.’ Photo: William McGinn.

When asked what kind of books people seem to be borrowing most during the pandemic, Anderson says the genre most often taken out is mystery. “Mysteries are still king, so to speak,” he said.

The library has two streaming services available – Hoopla and Kanopy. On Hoopla the top movies being viewed are the two Hitman’s Bodyguard films and The War With Grandpa.

While some people are making more use of the library, he said “there’s also more people who aren’t going out as much, and even during the pandemic that group is a little more difficult for us to connect with,” Anderson says.

Programs have been on hold for the latest lockdown wave but are resuming Feb 1. Heffernan said the library’s gotten creative with outreach and community engagement efforts. Among other efforts to join community organizations on initiatives, they have been “working with Pinnguaq for Take Home Packs, (literacy packs for children 2-5 years old) and talking with the Kawartha Lakes Food Source on how to support our clients/patrons.”

They are still getting fresh new material every Wednesday to add to what is known as the power wall, pictured.

“I think that our efforts,” says Heffernan, “have proven to be reflective of the community needs during the different stages of lockdown.”

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