It’s official. I am a Hobbit. Hobbits are the halflings created by JRR. Tolkien of “Lord of the Rings” fame. They have homes underground, are short and plump in stature, and they enjoy several meals a day, just like me! Now that I am living and working at home, my routines are very different than they were a mere few weeks ago. We are all hobbits who are now eating several meals a day and trying to get plenty of rest!

Rise early and do first work. Have first breakfast. Check emails. Take first nap. Prepare second breakfast. Conference calls. First lunch. Webinar. Snack time. More emails. Genealogy class. Second lunch. Host online book group. Second nap. First dinner. Create social media content. Second Dinner. More emails and reference work. Bed.

Anyone who is isolating knows.

This is very, very hard.

Loneliness. Anxiety. The thing that has kept me going over the past weeks is the support of the McArthur Library family and my work. In fact, I think most of us are actually working way more hours than when we were physically in the building. Now, our jobs have become 24/7 as distractions are harder to find.

In February at McArthur Library’s regular staff meeting, per CDC workplace planning and suggestions from the American Library Association, administration gave staff a brief overview of a Covid-19 pandemic. We had already set up hand sanitizer stations, posted CDC posters, and we asked our staff to wash hands frequently and keep a social distance from patrons, especially if they appeared to be sick. At the time, we laughed about the idea of social distancing. It was a term in the guidance literature, but I had never heard it before.

The concept of widespread illness seemed unlikely. The next day, news came from Washington state that the virus was in the U.S. Fast forward to Wednesday, March 11, when we had a wonderful regular book group meeting with 14 lovely people discussing books in a lively fashion. On Thursday, March 12 we were contemplating cancelling our “big” Maine 200 talk with professor Liam Riordan. By the next day, we had decided to cancel all of our programs and on Saturday, March 16 we decided to close for the next two weeks. It was THAT fast.

We were lucky. In the final week of being open, we had implemented basic plans to move programming online. We planned duties and training for staff. So, although it happened rapidly, we were able to coordinate fairly smoothly. Using Jitsi and Zoom, we have been able to hold regular staff meetings and meet with nearly 300 other librarians across Maine and with the state librarian and director of Library Development to receive current information.

More than anything else, we have come together as a team, supporting each other during a stressful and scary time. Mr. John from the Children’s Room immediately began presenting virtual storytimes. Danie, our teen librarian, is doing daily read alouds. Miss Deanna is reading bedtime stories. Renee, our amazing Special Collections librarian and archvist scanned and uploaded Dane York’s History of Biddeford and has been working to preserve our historic glass plate negatives.

The Circulation Department has worked out a schedule to make sure we are near phones on the weekdays to answer questions from patrons, while our Technology Librarian Brooke has been working behind the scenes to create a virtual reference department. Our fearless leader, Jeff Cabral, has been at the library every day, along with our bookkeeper, Lucille.

Please watch for a Virtual Author Talk with Monica Wood coming up, and an Online Community Read featuring the “Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins. Our regular Storytimes, Baby Songs, Knitting Group and Book Group will continue online as they have been. Check out www.mcarthurlibrary.org for our virtual programming newsletter and more information. While the building is not open, McArthur Library as the heart of the community is certainly open and beating strong.

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