Victoria’s public libraries have continued to serve their communities despite the challenges faced by lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The following list of case studies is illustrative, but by no means exhaustive, of ways in which libraries have adapted to changing circumstances and community needs.
The Libraries Change Lives COVID-19 Showcase was broadcast on 10 September 2020 to highlight how Victorian public libraries are working to meet community needs during COVID-19 restrictions and their essential role in the state’s pandemic response and recovery. MC Brian Nankervis was joined by Minister for Local Government, the Hon Shaun Leane MP, State Library Victoria CEO Kate Torney and Public Libraries Victoria President Chris Buckingham to explore how libraries have been bridging the digital divide, helping Victorian find work, keeping vulnerable communities connected, and supporting students through Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdowns. The Showcase features the following programs:
- From Goldfields Libraries: Library in Your Loungeroom provides access to e-books, audio books, e-magazines as well as programs, events and exhibitions online; Be Connected provides phone-based support from digital mentors to help people get online and use their devices; and Life in Lockdown captures a social history story through photography, art, poetry and written word.
- From City of Greater Dandenong Libraries: adapting the Language and Literacy program to meet the needs of the significant number of people in the community whose only internet access is by phone; library staff have used phones, screenshots, emails and sometimes interpreters to assist with resumes, job searching and application and form filling.
- From Yarra Plenty Regional Library: making phone calls to over 8,000 senior library members to help them feel connected.
- From Goulburn Valley Libraries: click and collect services with contactless pick up, contactless deliveries for housebound and home library patrons, and in Yarrawonga and Cobram libraries on the Victorian border, assisting community members without adequate internet facilities or printers at home to apply for permits to cross into New South Wales.
- From City of Melbourne Libraries: an online English conversation club for isolated international students in the City of Melbourne.
Monash Public Library Service and Wyndham City Libraries both offered jobseeker support with Monash’s Skills for Work online training for jobseekers and Wyndham’s online Resume Help program for jobseekers.
Whitehorse Manningham Libraries launched the Bounce Back series, a collection of programs to support the community during COVID-19. They partnered with organisations including super funds, the Australian Tax Offices and local job centres to provide via a range of free, guided online sessions on navigating redundancy and the new job market, financial relief and supports, managing debt, financial literacy and looking after mental and physical health while looking for work or working from home.
Hepburn Libraries moved Pride Month celebrations online in June and made sure the LGBTIQ+ celebration videos were accessible to as many people as possible by presenting the series in Auslan.
Geelong Regional Library is offering social clubs and programs to keep local residents connected and shifting delivery to Zoom to make sure that their film society, book clubs and knitting group, Purl Jam could keep talking.
Yarra Libraries partnered with Open Table and Cultivating Community to assemble and distribute food relief packages. As well as fresh produce and frozen meals donated by local businesses and charities, these packs contained toiletries, library books, children’s activity sheets, and other forms of information and entertainment for people who might not have access to the internet. An average of 371 packages are being delivered each week.
Ballarat Libraries and Murrundindi Library Service are both offering ‘Book Tailor’ and ‘Book Butler’ services. Patrons complete an online form and staff curate a selection of books on their behalf. Patrons are notified when items are ready and provided with collection instructions.
Moreland City Libraries introduced a range of programs to address issues of isolation and digital exclusion in the local community:
- Online English Conversation Clubs: Continuing regular English conversation clubs in a virtual environment meant that attendees did not miss out on this important opportunity to practice their spoken English Language skills and, in a few cases, learning about a new technology which can help them to stay connected throughout the pandemic.
- iPad Loan Scheme: With the assistance of a grant from the Good Things Foundation, Moreland City Libraries purchased internet enabled iPads which were lent to community members aged 50 or over who were experiencing digital isolation. The iPads arrived at the person’s home via contactless delivery and they were supported with one-on-one over the phone assistance provided by the Digital Services Team. The reach was extended when the library staff also trained staff from Council’s Home Support Team so that they could supply iPads to their clients and teach them how to use the device during their regular visits.
- Online Makerspace: Moreland is a creative community and the arts sector has been hard hit by the effects of the pandemic. Many people who appreciate the mental wellness benefits of creativity were missing out on creative opportunities, such as the library Maker Spaces so we provided resources for an online Makerspace.
- Books To Your Door: With drivers appointed through the Working For Victoria Program, Moreland City Libraries was able to introduce contactless home delivery of reserved library materials or a bag of books tailored to the reader’s preferences. This service proved very popular, prior to Stage 4 restrictions, over 5,300 library items had already been delivered to the homes of Moreland residents in lockdown and many deliveries contained children’s craft activities also, to brighten the day of home learners (and teachers).
- Online Storytimes in Community languages: Prior to the lockdown, Moreland City Libraries had been preparing to expand it’s LOTE storytime offering. The trial of storytimes in Arabic and Turkish went online during COVID-19 and the sessions were well received, with lots of views via FaceBook and YouTube. Our existing Italian and Greek storytimes were also put online and generated a lot of interest. Due to a change in the copyright situation, these sessions have been removed from our video library and are now only available on FaceBook Live.
Wyndham City Libraries embraced online programming with both pre-recorded and live programs including Online Baby Time, Whizz Kids, Chess and Coding Clubs, History Chat, Live with the Librarians and podcasts. They partnered with Werribee Open Range Zoo to produce Story Time at the Zoo during the second lockdown and this was shared by the Zoo and popular social media influencers Mamma Knows West. This video reached 50,000 people!
One of the most popular live, regular programs has been ‘Read with Me At Home’, sessions where kids can practise their reading with a trained staff member from Wyndham City Libraries. With schooling from home during lockdown, this quickly became one of the most sought-after programs.
One outstanding event was the Indigenous Astronomy session for Science Week in August 2020, which engaged a couple of hundred people.
The highlight online competition during lockdown was the Reading to Pets Facebook competition. The voting post reached nearly 15,000 people with 2,744 reactions, comments and shares.