Since the Mt. Lebanon Public Library closed its doors to the public on March 14, library staff has been working to serve patrons as best as they can during the COVID-19 pandemic. Library Director Robyn Vittek says the library has adapted a three-pronged service model: reference services, an enhanced digital collection and the development of virtual programming.
Reference services are available through phone, text and email, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. Three librarians work four-hour shifts at the virtual reference desk, answering patrons’ questions and attending to clerical work in the library.
The library has always had a robust digital collection, most of it available to patrons of any library in the Allegheny County system, but some limited to Mt. Lebanon card holders. Mt. Lebanon-only offerings include Acorn TV, a British television streaming service; Creativebug online arts and crafts classes; and Udemy, a collection of more than 100,000 online courses in subjects such as business, marketing, design, health and nutrition, music and photography.
Virtual programming, spearheaded by Sharon Bruni, associate director of public services, has expanded over the first few weeks of social distancing to include a morning story time and an afternoon music time on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; moving the teen LGBTQ Book Club to the computer screen; and making many of the regular adult library programs virtual, such as board game nights, book chats, knitting and crocheting, and a science fiction discussion group. Also, film expert Elaine Wertheim and local artist Judé Ernest are presenting discussions and maker sessions online.
A new Facebook page, the Mt. Lebanon Alone-Together Group, with more than 250 members, gives patrons a chance to stay in touch with other library regulars.
“We’re using it as an opportunity to connect, over books, gardening, baking—anyone can post,” says Vittek. “It’s a way for people to continue to see us as a community center.”
The library is also increasing the frequency and depth of its e-newsletters and has made it easier to access digital products and virtual programs on its homepage .
Municipal manager Keith McGill was pleased with the efforts of the library staff.
“They’ve reopened the library, in a virtual sense,” he says. “I know it was no small effort to get there.”
Commissioner Leeann Foster, liaison to the library board, agrees.
“They’ve done a tremendous amount of work in a very short time.”