Director's Blog: March 15 update

Submitted by A. Shelley on Tue, 03/15/2022 - 08:05

Two years ago, we closed all of our Fort Vancouver Regional Library District’s locations for what we believed would be a few weeks at most, thinking that the COVID-19 pandemic would be something we would quickly overcome. As the weeks wore on, we realized that we needed to rethink how we delivered our services, and our staff got busy finding new ways to bring library resources to our communities. On the anniversary of our difficult two-year journey, I want to say thank you to our staff, patrons, and supporters for their continued commitment to our libraries. Because of you, FVRL has survived and thrived through this difficult time in our history.

No sooner had we closed our doors on March 14, 2020, than our innovative staff got to work. Our team quickly began to work on issues of digital equity and found ways to make online resources available to everyone in our communities by making online library cards easier to obtain. Our staff also looked for opportunities to make digital library materials more available, increasing our collections of eBooks, eAudiobooks, eMagazines, and streaming music and video, and expanding our selection of online learning resources. Thanks to grants from the Washington State Library, we also started lending Wi-Fi hotspots, expanded Wi-Fi access outside our buildings, and made printing free.

Along with library volunteers, our staff began to offer opportunities to join online language circles, participate in role-playing games, and connect to others equally isolated. These initial online programs grew to become a rich source of virtual events that continue to serve the needs and interests of all in our community. We eventually offered everything from art shows to author visits to community forums through our virtual platform and will continue to do so as we recognize that it expands access to new audiences.

Once we were able to safely bring staff back into our buildings in June of 2020, we introduced our curbside service, providing touchless hold pickups to our users. Through the summer and fall of 2020, and into early 2021, we closely followed state guidelines for providing a safe workplace for our employees. Eventually, we were slowly able to offer other in-library services including browsing and computer access, in a safe and sustainable way, which have continued through today.

Throughout the pandemic, we have been honored to partner with community agencies to serve our communities, including working with CRESA to provide personal protective equipment distribution to hospitals, using our 3D printers to make mask extenders for medical staff, distributing meals for SHARE at two locations during the summers, and most recently distributing N-95 masks and COVID at-home test kits.

We have hopefully turned the page on COVID, but we continue to face other challenges from supply chain shortages, inflation, and uncertainty in global events. FVRL remains committed to doing all we can to offer welcoming libraries where everyone in our communities feels valued and is empowered to succeed. If it’s been a while since you’ve stopped in, we invite you back. We believe libraries are for everyone!

Open hours and services

Most FVRLibraries are open from 10 am to 6 pm, Monday through Saturday. Some locations are open longer, depending on staffing. Check your local library’s schedule for a complete list of days and hours.

Currently, we offer the following library services:

We've begun reevaluating what library services we're offering and developing plans for the return of even more services. We will continue to follow the advice from the State Department of Health and the Washington Department of Labor and Industries for maintaining a safe environment for our patrons and staff. We appreciate your support of these efforts to help us put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Library programs and public spaces

Many of you are anxious for library programs to return or would like to use our public meeting rooms. FVRLibraries recognizes that our programs and spaces are valuable and needed, and we're currently working on guidelines to bring them back in the near future while keeping in mind social distancing, staff availability and room capacity to balance health and safety guidelines/concerns. The Early Learning Center on the third floor of the Vancouver Community Library remains closed at this time.

Virtual programs have been a success and will continue to be maintained. FVRL recently launched Anytime Storytimes with fresh content for our youngest readers. Library seating may remain limited so that we can provide adequate space between users.

Touchless services

Many of our users have let us know how much they have appreciated the convenience of curbside pickups for library holds. We will continue to offer curbside, although hours may vary at different locations based on staff availability. You can also access our 24/7 digital library resources to access the thousands of eBooks, eAudiobooks, music, movies, and much more online as well as download Experience Passes for free access to local attractions.

Other precautions

Face coverings are optional for all visitors to Fort Vancouver Regional Library locations, as of March 12, 2022. Hand sanitizer and disposable masks are available at all service desks and at the entrance to the library. Feel free to use them when you visit.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us or call us at 360-906-5000. We look forward to serving you at your local library!

-Amelia Shelley, FVRLibraries Executive Director
March 15, 2022