This week on the SLIC blog Project Lead Tanya Milligan from Falkirk Libraries talks about their COVID response and importance of kindness throughout 2020.
Falkirk Community Trust Libraries were, like everyone else, locked down through much of 2020. Most of our staff were furloughed, so all of us have had to get used to being back at work, never mind being back in the ‘new normal’.
What have we done this autumn in Falkirk Community Trust Libraries? Well, all eight of our libraries are open, and our Home Library Service is up and running again, delivering books to people who are unable to get into a library. Our social media has been promoting Book Week Scotland and sharing loads of wonderful links and videos. Just like any other year. And yet, like a swan floating across a lake with feet flapping away below, few people are aware of all the frantic risk assessment and new procedure writing, training creation and delivery, website, poster and social media development going on under the surface.
The thing that has kept us going is kindness. Our frontline staff care about our customers – even when our users become upset about being asked to wear a mask or try and push their way in when we are closed. Our staff understand how hard this is and try their hardest to show kindness whenever they can. There is a shared understanding that this year is weird, that sometimes we feel okay, and that sometimes, we really don’t feel okay.
Staff working in our libraries have had to get used to wearing masks and washing their hands regularly. We have had to get to grips with a whole new Click & Collect system, with Track & Trace and bookings to use any part of our libraries.
The most difficult thing for us to learn however, is to keep our distance from people we have worked with for years, and from new starts that we would like to help. There are days when it is hard, and we understand and treat everyone we work with gently.
Most of our professional staff are working all or most of the time from home, in fact, this blogpost was written sitting in a living-room, listening to a dog sighing, and a washing machine churning in the background. And we all have to remind ourselves that kindness is the most important thing right now.
There are days that working from home, answering emails, working online, feels great, we achieve so much, we get loads done. Then, there are other days, where our minds are sluggish, and no-one responds to our emails, and it feels as if we are shouting into the void. Yet, we remind each other, and ourselves, that we are doing the very best we can at that moment. We care, and we are understanding.
Our staff, like those in other library services across the country, have gone above and beyond their normal work. They have pivoted from one role straight into another, they have created new ways of working, for everything, in a matter of weeks. It’s easy to look back on all the things that did not get done this year, or things we wish we could be doing, but sometimes, we need to take the time to look at what we have achieved, to pat ourselves on the back, and realise that being kind goes both ways.
As a way to help with that, we collected up a few of the positive comments from our social media and they show how much the public have appreciated what we have done for them during this very strange year.
Comments on the new Click & Collect service
‘Got some library books today! Excellent service from @LibFalkirk - browsed the catalogue online, requested books, picked a delivery slot, socially distanced and quick collection. So simple and so efficient. Delighted to be able to use and support my local library again! ♥️ ‘
K on Twitter
‘Dropped off books and picked up new ones last week at Falkirk, I was very impressed with the set up. I was in and out in a couple of minutes.’
M on Facebook
‘I returned mine on sat and received my wee click and collect pile. It was lovely to go back to the library after so long.’
P on Facebook
General comments on the library service
‘We have a great relationship with @LibFalkirk and their support for #blind people should definitely be shouted about!’
Forth Valley Sensory Centre, Twitter
‘libraries are reopening! …. I feel like I've been waiting for this day my whole life.’
M on Facebook
‘Will be glad to see all the lovely staff at Falkirk library’
K on Facebook
‘I'm a new member to the online library and really enjoying choosing a different genre of books than I usually read at home. With books and magazines, it's a great facility, thank you.’
D on Facebook
If you, like us, feel as if this year has been a bit weird, then I invite you to seek out the positive comments about your libraries, and put a little more kindness into your working life.