In our wildest dreams, could we ever have imagined the epic story we’re living today? In just a few months, more than 100,000 Americans have died, millions are unemployed and people’s lives have been disrupted in painful and unimaginable ways. While the coronavirus story continues to unfold, one has to wonder when and how it will end.

While COVID-19 is new, parts of the plot are very familiar. After the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, libraries, schools and businesses were closed. People were told to stay inside and to wear masks while outdoors. Graduations, weddings and other social events were canceled or rescheduled. It felt as if life would never be the same.

For Whitman County Library, our coronavirus story begins with a rapid winding down of services, closing our doors, staff working from home and frantic efforts to expand our online services and resources.

From our website, newsletter and social media outlets, we connected users with a variety of online content, shared “free trials” of new products and assembled collections of COVID-19 related links related to the virus itself, public health and safety and resources for those dealing with unemployment, teaching their children at home because of school closures and a variety of other concerns.

We communicated these changes with you through local media, our library newsletter, and social media. How lucky we are to have the Moscow Pullman Daily News and other local media to keep us informed of real facts and valuable resources throughout this pandemic.

Today, our staff is returning to work in staggered shifts, practicing safe social distancing and holding our meetings via Zoom.

Best of all, our phones are ringing again, and it’s a welcome sound. People are asking for books to read and movies to watch. Some just call to “say hello” or to talk about their shelter in place story.

Gloriously, we are able to respond by mailing books, movies and materials directly to patrons’ homes, giving them library cards to access e-books, movie streaming and other services that they didn’t previously have time to enjoy or enjoying a bit of conversation to brighten their day and ours.

Staff is also busy planning for the next steps in this ongoing saga. When and how will curbside services be provided? Once we reopen, how many people will be allowed in our libraries, how can we provide sufficient access to computers and will we have enough staff and supplies to keep everyone safe?

Ironically, “Imagine Your Story” is the theme for summer reading programs set to run from June 1 through Aug. 31 for all ages. A variety of online activities, book clubs, trivia games, art and photo contests and more are being planned. Additional resources will be provided through schools and local businesses until we are allowed to reopen. And yes, there will be prizes and drawings along the way.

While “Imagine Your Story” is our 2020 Summer Reading refrain, the theme is becoming so much more. I imagine it will be the tale of everyone working together, looking out for each other and coming through this crisis smarter, kinder and better than we were before.

Sheri Miller is youth services coordinator for Whitman County Library.

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