Author T.S. Elliot once said, “The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.”
As a well-known writer, Elliot may have been biased when it came to the importance of libraries in society. Still, his sentiment rings true.
Through wars, famines and economic upheaval, libraries have provided communities across the world with information, resources and entertainment.
Their roles haven't changed in 2020, despite the restrictions a pandemic imposes.
“It's a helping profession,” said Leslie Pallotta, director of the Cranberry Public Library. “I see us almost as a stress-relief service.”
Like many libraries in Pennsylvania, the Cranberry Public Library has adjusted its operations to meet the needs of patrons.
Part of that means it no longer is open physically to the public.
“We call it 'Grab-n-Go,'” Pallotta said. “People are taking advantage.”
Instead of going to the library and browsing in person, cardholders are able to browse online and have library workers place items on hold. Librarians then check out items and prepare them for visitors to pick up.
Turnaround time is about 24 hours, according to Pallotta. She said the library is processing about 100 holds per day. Pallotta added the holiday season is always slower.
What seems to be especially popular among visitors now are the library's electronic resources.
There was a 300% increase in use of the library's e-resources and database in 2020, according to Pallotta. She said it's good to see this side of the library utilized.
Although the Cranberry Public Library continues to serve visitors, operations are not without drawbacks.
For one thing, Pallotta said offering Grab-n-Go services means the library staff isn't able to work as closely with patrons as it once did. It's particularly difficult to advise readers, according to Pallotta.
“It is much easier to serve that patron that comes in and says, 'I want an adventure book,'” Pallotta said.
Pallotta said while the library has had to reduce the hours of some part-time employees during the pandemic, it hasn't furloughed anyone.
Employees continue to make progress on library operations, including the new makerspace.
The makerspace is designed to become a community workshop within the library. As the environment is hands-on, it hasn't been able to open to the public, although it is complete.
“Progress hasn't stopped in there,” Pallotta said. “We cannot wait until restrictions are lifted.”
Pallotta said library staff are working behind the scenes on policy development, fee schedules and other items.
The Cranberry Public Library awaits the day when it can welcome patrons once more, according to Pallotta. In the meantime, she encourages the community to use the library.
“People have been incredibly patient,” Pallotta said. “Just hang in there.”