Read through our community report for 2020–thanks for being here! We love being a part of your lives.
It’s hard to accurately express the complexity of last year. I’ve said this before—when I think about 2020, it feels in many ways that it ran from last March to this March, at the anniversary of when things changed so drastically.
Over this week I’ll be sharing our 2020 numbers, January-December, but most of the details will be following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the shutdown, we had 3,271 visits at the library, with 39 hours a week, Monday-Saturday. After the shutdown, our hours changed slightly, but it was important to us that you could still find us at the library Monday through Saturday, now with 34 hours a week.
During and after the shutdown, it’s hard to fully measure the breadth of our services, because in the past most services included someone walking through the door. Now we were offering curbside pickup of materials, virtual and pickup programming, reference help given over phone and email, curbside printing and copying, and outside Wi-Fi use, all through means that weren’t counted as visits. You’ll still find numbers here that will let you see what 2020 looked like for us.
There were so many unknowns that we had to respond to throughout the course of the year. Our board tried to make decisions that protected our community, patrons, and staff, while making it a priority to offer the services we could, even if they looked different than in the past.
After we returned to the building in June, one of our goals was to keep books consistently available to patrons. While we were so grateful to be able to increase access to digital materials system-wide during the shutdown, we know that people love to have books in their hands (as well as the DVDs, CDs, and games on our shelves).
In the end, our circulation numbers for the year were just over half of what they would be in a normal year.
We currently have over 14,000 items, and we’re happiest when they’re in people’s hands, not on our shelves. We love when something is returned only to turn around and immediately put it in the next person’s hands who’s excited to read it.
Curbside pickup was an adjustment, but it meant that we offered service to patrons 6 days a week throughout the rest of the year. We loved getting the first calls, scheduling pickup, putting the books in bags, labeling them, and seeing the table full day after day.
Curbside is more work per book—the process means two significant changes:
- More books go through delivery instead of directly off our shelves (our checkouts were about half, but interlibrary loan numbers were normal)
- Each checkout is at least one phone call, email, or message answered, often more, to place holds and schedule pickup
That said, we know curbside worked really well for a lot of our patrons, so we’re glad to provide it and we plan to continue offering it for the foreseeable future, in addition to normal library visits.
The start of 2020 was busy with programs and events at the library. 471 people attended 48 programs held for children, teens, and adults. Our community rooms were used another 78 times for non-library meetings and events.
With the shutdown, however, we immediately transitioned to virtual and independent programs. Kids Club started the day after the library building closed, and held 66 virtual programs for kids (and quite a few adults, too!) and 30 challenges over the next 10 weeks.
Our summer reading program had to change dramatically as well. Over the course of six weeks, we read stories, gave out craft and activity bags, visited community spots (virtually), and traveled the world through books, all without being together at the library. We did 23 programs, with hundreds of participants.
With additional ‘pop-up’ programming through the fall and holiday seasons, this meant that we held 164 programs for children over the course of 2020, with a total of 191 programs for all age groups.
We chose to make our focus children’s programming, but consistently heard from others who were watching along as well. We were so glad to have the opportunity to continue to offer good stories, some fun, and the chance to build relationships, even when we weren’t together.
Access to technology was challenging to offer in a remote way, but we tried to find solutions for the present and also prepare for increased services when we return to normal operations.
Immediately on closing the building, we made changes that maximized the availability of Wi-Fi outside our building, which have continued since.
We found curbside solutions for printing and copying, and moved forward with a planned upgrade to a wireless printer.
We also upgraded our public access computers so they would be ready when the building reopened to the public. Both upgrades were funded by a grant from Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush.
Finally, we offered outdoor solutions for some types of access, including times for community members to respond to the 2020 census.
While 2020 interrupted some of the ways that we typically work with other organizations in our community, it provided new opportunities as well.
We worked with other libraries in new ways in 2020, including planning, shared programming, census response initiatives, and more. We held the first Support Your Local Library Quilt Raffle online, with 50% of proceeds designated to the purchaser’s library of choice across the North Country.
Interlibrary loan is always the most consistent way we collaborate with other libraries. It means that patrons at every library in the North Country have access to hundreds of thousands of titles, no matter the size of the library in their community. While our circulation was about half of a normal year, we sent and received 6,418 items through interlibrary loan at Lowville, which is average for a normal year in our library.
We worked with places in our community to provide new and continued programming, including Lowville DEC, Lewis County Fairgrounds, Lewis County Search and Rescue, Valley Greenery, Lowville Producer’s Co-op, Head Start, and more.
While we didn’t hold the annual garden tour and scavenger hunt, which are always anticipated parts of our year and through which we get to work with so many in our community, we look forward to both events returning in 2021.
Finally, we received grant funds from NYS, Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush, Stewart’s Shops, and the McSweeney Foundation that covered many things from building construction and maintenance, new technology, programming, and other areas of operations. We are so grateful for how those funds allow us to offer services to our community.
Finally, thank you for your continued support and patronage. Although we missed seeing your faces, we so appreciated hearing your voice at the other end of the phone, thinking of you when we put your name on a bag of books, and getting the notes and donations that truly did make keeping on easier.