Cost of COVID: renewed appreciation of local libraries

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Amyre Makupson

10 year old Ro’maya takes a break from virtual learning to read a book at the Washington Memorial Public Library.

We’ve all been affected by the cost of COVID in one way or another, and your local public library is no exception.

The days of the Dewey Decimal System may be long gone, but right now, people are developing a renewed sense of value in local libraries.

Amyre Makupson with Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism visited the Washington Memorial Library in Macon where she met 10-year-old Rom’aya.

Rom’aya is serious about her studies, so when the pandemic closed her school, she created her own classroom at Washington Memorial Library.

“You can still learn instead of going to school with all that stuff happening,” said Rom’aya. “You can still learn from the books.”

Jennifer Lautzenheiser, the director libraries for the Middle Georgia Regional Library System, says sometimes the kids just need something different than their own four walls.

Like Rom’aya, many people now see new value in public libraries, and it’s not just students.

“People who lost employment due to the pandemic,” Lautzenheiser said, “They needed our digital resources to write a new resume and search for new employment.”

Whether it be for studies, job hunting or just a change in scenery, re-opening the library to the public was a process.

Lautzenheiser says they worked with the Georgia Public Library Service to follow CDC guidelines. They allowed extra space between patrons, put time limits on devices, brought out hand sanitizer, and even quarantined some of the books.

“It doesn’t matter your education, background, your socioeconomic status, anything like that,” said Lautzenheiser. “You can come into the public library, and have meaningful conversations with people not like you.”

Making those connections can be even more important in divisive times.

The library reports that while in-person services have declined by 25%, digital resource usage — things like curbside check out and internet — have increased by 25%.

The Middle Georgia Regional Library System is resuming some in-person activities. For the latest on events and programs going on right now with Middle Georgia Regional Library System, click here.