Years ago I read the book “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson. I was on a lengthy holiday road trip and the driver of the car, a corporate business manager, had been asked to read the book for work. Since we had several hours of driving ahead, I offered to read the book aloud. “Who Moved My Cheese” has sold more than 26 million copies and is considered one of the bestselling business books of all time. It is a mere 94 pages and the nutshell version is that you must roll with the punches because things change rapidly.

Since 1991, I have worked in public libraries. As glamorous as that sounds, it means I have had to learn to be flexible. Every. Single. Day. Squirrel in the building. Backed up toilets. Budget crisis. Staff out sick. Water leaking. Heating off. Vomit (everywhere). Security footage needed. Rocks in the book drop.  Icy walkways. You get the picture. To me, this book was utter nonsense. Moved my cheese? [insert maniacal laughter] Cheese? Seriously? Hand me a plunger and let’s get on with work.

Cut to the great pandemic of 2020. If you need to be stuck in the middle of a pandemic, you want to be stuck with librarians. We’ve been training our whole professional lives for weird stuff to happen. Just ask our reference librarian who found a hissing bearded dragon in a chair or the multitude of strange things we have seen when working with the public. At McArthur Library, we rolled up our sleeves and dug in our heels to keep going.

We closed due to the pandemic on March 16 and held a virtual staff meeting the next day. Within a week, most of our library programs were virtual.  Programming was so well done that it received national attention via the American Library Association and will be featured in an upcoming book. A library in Japan reached out to staff to ask questions about our virtual programming successes. Early in the pandemic we had multiple organizations reach out to our staff to learn about Zoom, Streamyard and Jitsi. We became de facto experts and our variety of videos have been viewed over FIFTY THOUSAND TIMES!

Administrative staff from McArthur attended important weekly state COVID-19 updates. We quickly realized that faced with a massive emergency, our team had stepped up to the challenge. They did not hesitate, flounder, or panic. They worked. They achieved. And they swiveled. The cheese had been moved and they did not miss a beat. Weeks after the pandemic began, many libraries were struggling and McArthur Library had continued to thrive and grow.

As we awaited results from a national study about COVID-19 virus on surfaces, specifically books, we planned our next steps. Biddeford’s amazing historic library building has so many challenges during a pandemic, with multiple service areas, loads of nooks and crannies, air flow issues, no parking, wide population demographics, and dozens of public computers. That is how McArthur at your Mailbox arose. Mailing items allowed us to get physical materials into the hands of anyone who needed them and it allowed us to continue services during the ebb and flow of a spreading virus. Now that our physical barriers are installed and we have methods for sanitizing computers, we are even allowing some public computing and it is great to see people in the building. Please call the library for an appointment at 207-284-4181.

While there are too many accomplishments to name, we are proud of a few I will mention here. The circulation staff completed a full inventory of EVERY item in our building. We have updated our obituary index and are digitizing it to be available online. And, we are constantly expanding our digital services. Through a generous grant from the Davis Family Foundation, we will soon be offering Hoopla: a video, TV, book and audiobook streaming service free to library users.

Right now, we are all tired of the changes we have faced during this unprecedented time — McArthur Library is YOUR library and we aim to add a bit of light during dark times. Feel free to reach out to us, especially if someone has moved your cheese.

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