Welcome to Library Ireland Week, a week where we commemorate all that is great about libraries and library staff. Although we like to celebrate libraries all the time, we think this year is especially important.
The theme of this year’s celebration is ‘Libraries Endure: Continuity in Crisis’, recognising the changes and developments that libraries have made in reaction to the ongoing global crisis that is COVID-19. While bad news is prevalent these days, we’d like to spread some joy and happiness by taking a look back on our highlights from an unforgettable year.
Since March 12 when the announcement was made that our libraries would be closing, our staff have met every challenge along the way. This year alone, staff have worked a full in-house service, worked behind closed doors, worked from home, initiated contact-and-collect services, and expanded the mobile delivery service to include cocooners. Throughout the pandemic, staff have been working hard behind the scenes to ensure that our library spaces remain as safe and welcoming as they always have been.
In libraries, we are often asked if modern technology is taking away from our work and our roles. This year the opposite was proven, and eServices statistics show that libraries can work hand-in-hand with technology to encourage literacy and education, and provide a wonderful escape during tough times. In April, just a month after our closure, it was reported by the Department of Rural and Community Affairs that online membership to libraries had soared, with a 313% increase in new users of eBooks and eAudiobooks, a 467% increase in e-learning courses being taken and a 246% increase in the usage of online newspapers and e-magazines.
Aside from all of this, Fingal Libraries have also become a more active presence on Social Media. Already active on our blog as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we ventured into the world of YouTube to continue to facilitate the wealth of events that we enjoyed in-house before the Pandemic struck.
Throughout the month of April, we ran a Photography Course (which is still available here) with our resident photography expert, Barry. We learned about exposure, composition, lighting, and that ever-important ‘decisive moment’.
Staff story-times continued with great enthusiasm. Multilingual Storytelling provided us with beautiful stories in languages including Spanish, Romanian, Polish, English and French, Sensory story-time has allowed viewers to interact in a fun, educational way with the stories, and our spooky themed Hallowe’en stories were frightful fun!
The temporary closure of the libraries dealt a blow to a lot of our regular groups and classes, too. However, staff rose to the occasion. Newcomers and seasoned professionals were given the chance to hone their Chess skills, and arts and crafts continued virtually. Meanwhile, we also took book clubs to the world wide web. Our Europe Direct Information Centre persevered with continuous information and fascinating interviews, while initiatives and events including Summer Stars, Healthy Ireland, Work Matters, Science Week, Fingal Festival of History, The Write Time and Culture Night all found new audiences in their new format.
While the Blanchardstown Library Radio Show has been a mainstay for a number of years, Fingal Libraries also took its first foray into podcasting this year with three excellent additions to our programming. Poetry fans and anyone in need of a pocket of calm should listen to the enchanting ‘Soundings from the Shelves’, by Máighréad Medbh and Nadene. Meanwhile, the Fingal Libraries Podcast with Andy and Domhnall goes out each Monday, while Barry’s podcast, based on history, nature, and a little bit of everything else, is broadcast on a Friday. Both podcasts can be accessed here.
There have been countless other highlights: Pet of the Week posts, book quizzes and genre showdowns on our Instagram stories, and our presence at Octocon, for example. We’ve also got lots more up our sleeves to serve, educate, and entertain our wonderful communities - but you’ll have to follow us to find out more!
All of this has proven the old adage that ‘the library is not the building’. While we cherish the buildings (and believe us, we can’t wait to safely re-open those buildings), libraries are more than that. Libraries are the staff who upskill, re-train and step outside their comfort zones to ensure ‘Continuity in Crisis’. Libraries are also the wonderful communities and individuals who continued to visit us and support us, online and offline, throughout the year.
As listed in our Development Plan, Fingal Libraries’ Missions are to “respond to the needs of our diverse communities”, “preserve and make accessible Fingal’s unique historical identity”, and “anticipate future service needs”. Speaking at a recent conference, Tracie D Hall, Executive Director, American Library Association, introduced the business ideas of Eric Ries. To paraphrase Tracie, what Fingal Libraries have strived to do this year is to change our tactics without changing our mission.
Library Ireland Week runs from Monday, November 30, to Sunday, December 6. To take a look at our online events, workshops, and talks you can follow us on Facebook (Fingal Libraries), Twitter (@fingallibraries), and Instagram (@librariesfingal). You can also click here to visit us on YouTube.
If you have a favourite moment, a favourite service, or a library hero you’d like to give a shout-out to, we’d love to hear from you in the comments!