INDIANAPOLIS — Imagine yourself at a library, you’re cracking open a book by the window, a librarian shushes a crowd of kids as they settle down for storytime, a group of students gathers at a nearby table clicking their pens over homework.
Now, most of that isn’t allowed.
Storytime has gone virtual, and you can only sit and read or study for an hour at a time, says Jackie Nytes, CEO of Indianapolis Public Libraries.
“We are having to ration our time and our space,” Nytes said. “We have to limit the number of people who can be in our buildings at any given time.”
She says to make sure more people have access to the library they have to limit people’s time they can spend there.
They’ve also had to start quarantining their books.
Before a book can be put back on the shelf once it’s been returned it has to sit in quarantine for four days, similar to how a person has to quarantine for two weeks.
“If a book is clearly dirty, chocolate candy on the cover, of course, we’re going to clean that,” Nytes said. “But, a book just from general handling, we process those by quarantining them.”
She said a big frustration since the pandemic began is the loss of opportunity to program with people, and the ability to get together with a group and have a dynamic exchange of information.
“Having joyous gatherings around books, and around authors,” is something Nytes says she misses the most. “We had some amazing programs planned for the fall that we’ve had to cancel.”
When asked if they planned on moving activities back to in-person, she said they’re not taking the risk and will probably remain virtual for the rest of the year.
“You know, there’s so many things people can’t do right now. We’re all facing limits every time we turn around,” she said. “But, one thing we can do, especially with our children, we can be reading together.”
She said she hasn’t seen many students using the library for e-learning, but they’ve noticed more cars in the parking lot. The cars are full of families coming with a laptop so they can access activities for their children.
It doesn’t bother anyone that they’re there said Nytes. They’ve even checked to make sure the library WIFI is strong enough to reach that far.
“If there is any good thing that might come out of this very difficult time it would be that we all have an opportunity now to spend even more time with our children reading together.”