Libraries may be closed to the public because of COVID-19, but Dallas County libraries are still promoting this year’s National Library Week theme, “Find Your Place at the Library.” National Library Week is being celebrated from April 19-25.

Adel Public Library

Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, the Adel Public Library had offered many resources and programs in addition to the opportunity to check out books. This included Wee Play on Friday mornings, a monthly scavenger hunt, a Lego Challenge and more.

However, after the library temporarily closed its doors in order to help prevent the spread of the virus, staff have worked to incorporate this year’s Library Week theme through fun activities on their Facebook Page.

“I decided to write some stories about a flamingo and then I read them to the kids. I also taught the kids how to draw a flamingo. I have left some I miss you messages too, and Michelle our youth services librarian added some fun activities also,” Adel Public Library Director Paula James said.

In addition, the Adel Public Library is currently working to donate a box of books to the Adel-DeSoto-Minburn Community School District that will be handed out along with meals currently provided to students.

James said that the library is currently in communication with others throughout the local area in order to determine what future changes will need to be made. This could include more general cleaning all over the library such as wiping down computers on a daily basis.

“I really feel bad that we are closed because it is an important place for our community members. We have patrons that just like to come here for books and so much more,” James said.

Staff at the library continue to remain available to help patrons as best as they can throughout these unprecedented times. They are also ordering more books as well as working on special projects they normally would not have the time to complete.

“I have worked at the Adel Public Library for 20 years. I am so proud of our library. We have a helpful staff, a beautiful building and a really good collection of books and so much more,” James said. “I love talking books to our patrons. It is an important part of my life and it has helped me get through this time. That is what I feel bad about, that our patrons aren’t able to check out a book of ours and read.”

De Soto Public Library

With the De Soto Public Library temporarily closed since the middle of March, library staff have worked to incorporate this year’s Library Week theme through online programming and resources offered to patrons.

“The theme ‘Find Your Place at the Library’ is an important one because the library is one of the few places available where everyone is equally welcome. Everyone has a place here if they want it, and in a world where creating those connections and places of belonging can seem increasingly more difficult, that can be a powerful thing,” De Soto Public Library Director Brianna Glenn said.

Last year, the De Soto Public Library circulated over 17,000 items, with over 11,500 people entering the building. However, with the current impact of COVID-19, staff, instead, are working to provide more virtual options, such as a digital storytime on their Facebook page along with online services to learn a new language, check out books and more.

Staff has also helped new patrons set up a library card over the phone if needed. Glenn said that the library will work to continue providing services such as these for as long as the closure remains in place.

“We believe that while our library serves as an extremely important physical space in our community, we can provide some great relevant material for our patrons with our online offerings in a time where people are searching for services that can meet their needs at home,” Glenn said.

Grimes Public Library

Although the building, itself, has been temporarily closed due to COVID-19, the Grimes Public Library continues to promote this year’s Library Week theme.

“Nothing has changed about our mission or who we are. We have simply modified our delivery method. Our hope and main goals are to help serve our community during this time, to find resources for schooling, working from home, something to help with the loneliness people can feel during isolation, give people something to count on and some sense of normalcy,” Grimes Public Library Director Cheryl Heid said.

Since changes made to programming back in mid-March, the staff at the library have been working to provide a no contact take out service for patrons and have extended their WiFi access to include the parking lot. As part of this service, staff will bag up requested items, put names on these bags and then place them outside the building for patrons to pick up during designated times. The library has also partnered with local business and community organizations in order to help deliver items to elderly community members and patrons with limited mobility.

While circulation at the library may be about half of what it was this time last year, according to the staff the community still continues to take advantage of this take out service.

“Libraries are a vital piece of the overall social infrastructure within a community, and can often be a good indicator of the health of a community,” Heid said. “We are here to help in any way we can.”

The Grimes Public Library website and Facebook page have also included many activities and resources for patrons of all ages. This includes virtual storytimes and a virtual space for children to interact in. In addition, electronic resources such as e-books, e-magazines, music, movies and more continue to be available.

Heid said that if there is one thing COVID-19 has taught them, it’s that the Grimes Public Library is in need of more space. With summer typically their busiest season, she said that as the library grows physically, staff will be able to provide study rooms, meeting spaces, play areas, a welcoming place for parents to sit alongside their children during storytime, and more social space for people to once again interact with each other.

“Ms. Fionn and her staff do an amazing job. However, COVID-19 has made our small space not as safe this summer because everyone is always in close proximity to each other,” Heid said.

Staff at the library are currently available via phone and encourage patrons interested in accessing the library’s resources and services to call or leave a message. Patrons are also encouraged to visit the library’s online catalog to reserve items and take part in the no contact service.

“Public libraries are more important than ever to the local community,” the circulation staff at the Grimes Public Library said. “During this time some individuals are finding themselves in a financial bind, struggling to provide structure for their kids, or feeling isolated and bored. Others are just looking for ways to keep positive and use the time to better themselves. Regardless of their needs, this year’s theme ‘Find Your Place at the Library’ remains relevant to everyone.”

Minburn Public Library

In honor of this year’s National Library Week, the Minburn Public Library is currently working to incorporate the theme, “Find Your Place at the Library” through online resources and other community services.

Even in spite of the impact of COVID-19, the library has had 435 checkouts since the beginning of the year, and 286 patrons have accessed Bridges since the beginning of March, which exceeds their normal monthly usage by about 200 patrons.

Minburn Public Library Director Nicole Connick has also delivered or arranged pick up for over 100 library items since the middle of March, with the library also promoting the use of their online e-book and audio service, Overdrive.

“We strive to include our community in all the things that we do every day,” Connick said. “Libraries are not just about books anymore. Your place might be volunteering to shelve books, being part of one of our children’s reading groups, craft club, painting class, so many different things that we offer to bring the community together to support each other.”

With the library closing its doors in order to help prevent the spread of the virus, staff has continued to post weekly activities such as online story times, scavenger hunts and a stuffed animal parade. The library also keeps a bin of craft supplies and games as well as a food donation box outside the building for people to give what they can and take as needed.

“We need to work harder at making sure our patrons have the things they need in a way that is safe for everyone. I’ve made copies of worksheets for parents trying to teach kids from home, dropped books off to elderly patrons, delivered bags of produce provided by the pop up produce stand from Waukee Christian services, and collected food donations for those in need. Many more things than checking out books alone,” Connick said.

In addition, the library has begun the process of moving to their new location at the old Minburn Elementary School building, which will increase their footage from 620 square feet to over 4,000 square feet, including programming space. Since upgrades are needed before patrons can start accessing the building, staff are taking the time while they are closed to work on those changes. The hope is that the new location will be open to the public starting this summer but is dependent upon the effects of COVID-19.

Roy R. Estle Memorial Library

Like other local libraries, the Roy R. Estle Memorial Library has completely closed its doors in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The library had originally offered a curbside service for the first three weeks after closing its building. However, after one of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ latest proclamations, the library decided it was in the best interest of patrons and staff to discontinue this service.

Instead, the library continues to offer a variety of interactive programs and crafts online along with links on their website and Facebook page.

Roy R. Estle Memorial Library Director Shelly Cory described how now more than ever libraries remain an important aspect of the local community. She also described how this year’s Library Week theme is particularly relevant during the time of COVID-19.

“Libraries have evolved and changed with time and technology. They are not just about books any longer. They offer many valuable resources to the community,” Cory said. “I believe that libraries are helping their community members feel less isolated with access to downloadable materials, online links to interactive activities and free wifi at the buildings. For these same reasons, I think the theme ‘Find Your Place at the Library’ is relevant in so many ways other than just what is offered at a physical building.”

Van Meter Public Library

Although the Van Meter Public Library is currently closed due to the effects of COVID-19, the library has recently chosen to promote this year’s alternative Library Week theme.

Van Meter Public Library Director Kathleen Nubel said that the library will remain closed as long as the governor mandates it, with some services such as in-person programs possibly being suspended upon reopening, depending on the situation. The library, instead, has focused entirely on running its operations remotely. This includes remote reference and readers advisory services provided to patrons.

“Just because we’re closed doesn’t mean we can’t answer technology questions or help people pick out a good book. For the duration of the closure we are also providing temporary digital library cards to any residents of Van Meter and rural Dallas County who need one,” Nubel said.

In honor of Library Week, each day at 2 p.m. the Van Meter Public Library will also share on the City of Van Meter Facebook Page various ways to use the library remotely.

Nubel said staff continues to remain available via email and can set up online calls for patrons in need of more help than what email can currently provide.

“With most people stuck at home, the library is still able to share information, help people with technology, and provide people with access to online resources. We have multiple online resources that provide people with access to ebooks, audiobooks, and learning tools to help them stay entertained as well as learn from home,” Nubel said.

Waukee Public Library

Since closing its doors back in mid-March, staff at the Waukee Public Library have focused on providing online programming and resources to local patrons. The library has also continued to order books for when the building reopens and is currently working on shifting its entire collection.

“This year’s theme had to be updated to ‘Find the Library at Your Place’ due to the pandemic. What’s interesting is that it really sums up libraries. Libraries adapt. We’ve been adapting through the years and we will continue to adapt to meet the needs of our communities even during this unprecedented public health crisis,” Waukee Public Library Director Kristine Larson said.

Larson also said that while they prefer to see patrons in person, it is great to know that even when libraries are physically closed, they are still able to provide materials and services via technology.

Not only are ebooks currently available through the Libby app but The Waukee Public Library has also offered virtual book clubs, a poetry contest in April, and is currently working on planning a Letters With Librarians activity in May.

“Even though we are unable to connect in person, we can still connect to our patrons in other ways,” Larson said. “Libraries are important to every community. Someone somewhere desperately needs the services libraries provide on a daily basis. Even if you don’t personally use your library, it helps your community and the economy.”

One of the ways the Waukee Public Library has connected with the local community is by partnering with the Waukee Community School District for their Digital Scholar program. As part of this service, students of the district automatically have access to all online resources through their student ID, whether or not they have a library card.

While in 2019, local residents checked out over 200,000 physical items from the Waukee Public Library, this year, the library, instead, has seen a change in e-book usage, with a 77 percent increase from this time last year.

In February, for example, patrons of the library viewed 33 books in the children’s Tumblebooks online resource, while this number jumped to 321 books in the month of March. This shows that even with both the library and schools temporarily closed, patrons continue to take advantage of the resources the library has to offer.

“We are happy to offer all these resources. It’s so important that children continue to read and be read to each and every day. It’s the one thing families can do to ensure their child’s success in school and in life,” Larson said.

Updates and current information regarding the Waukee Public Library can be found on its website and Facebook page, with library staff still available via phone and email. In addition, the staff is currently planning a 100 percent online summer reading program that will include live performers and other summer activities for all ages.

“It seems very weird to be closed especially during National Library Week. We are very anxious to be able to open to the community and will as soon as it’s safe to do so. We do miss all our patrons and look forward to when we can see them again,” Larson said.