As the new year gets started, Carnegie Public Library recently took a look back to see how everything went during the year of the pandemic.
According to library director Sarah Nichols, 356 new library cards were issued in 2020 bringing the total number of current, active library borrowers to more than 8,500. Those 8,500 borrowers checked out approximately 100,000 items throughout the year.
“Since starting curbside service in June, Carnegie Library staff members have provided nearly 2,500 curbside transactions for books, DVDs and other library materials. This also includes our new laptop and office services which have been popular. We plan to continue them each, in some capacity, once the library building reopens to the public,” explained Nichols via email.
Checking out items wasn’t the only service the library provided this year. The library provided more than 14,000 free computer and Wi-Fi sessions.
Like many other businesses and organizations in the community, the library had to respond quickly to shutdown orders given last March, according to Nichols.
“Public libraries have never had to close their doors,” she explained. “With guidance, we began the slow and arduous reopening process last spring only to have to draw back to just curbside services once the virus cases in Fayette County began to climb this fall. Today’s public libraries are more than books on the shelf — libraries are service-driven and thrive on involvement and activity. The pandemic has meant that the most rich and rewarding aspects of our mission have been altered: conversations across the desk have been cut short, book clubs cancelled, programs postponed and school visits cancelled.”
Nichols further explained that amidst the challenges, one of the library’s biggest accomplishments in 2020 was the completion of exterior repairs to the library building. Specifically, erosion and weathering to the library’s front limestone steps, side/support walls, and facade were repaired, all skyward joints were filled and block sealed. Some of the funding for this project came from a grant from the Fayette County Travel and Tourism Bureau.
Funding wasn’t only received via Travel and Tourism, as the CARES Act funds distributed to Ohio public libraries were crucial in enabling the library to operate safely during the pandemic, according to Nichols.
Throughout the challenges and accomplishments, the library had some staffing changes. There were two longtime employee retirements. Kay Oughterson retired after 20 years of service and Jeanne Miller retired after 35 years of service. The employees were honored with a festive luau style party in June.
New staff members included Greg Puckett as building superintendent and Kaitlin Cottrill as engagement librarian. Moving into the new year, library employee Nathan Forsha will be promoted to “local history and genealogy specialist.”
“We are beyond grateful for the opportunities we have had to connect with and deliver items to patrons curbside and online, to present storytimes through YouTube and Facebook, and to develop new ways to partner in the community,” wrote Nichols. “Challenges create opportunities. I can’t say enough about the library’s creative and dynamic staff. As a whole, their commitment and resolve are to be commended.”
Reach journalist Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.