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Supporting Library Patrons During COVID-19
SC&I alumna Stacey Shapiro, ’17, Young Adult Programming Librarian at the Cranford Public Library in Cranford, New Jersey, describes the ways the library and her work have been impacted by the pandemic.
Alum Stacey Shapiro ’17: How the Cranford Public Library Is Supporting Patrons During COVID-19

Libraries are among most critical institutions adults, young adults, and children rely on, and not only for books to borrow, or quiet places to study and read, or the best places to find an internet connection and a printer.  

Libraries are often community centers and social hubs, homes away from our homes, comfortable places to attend events and workshops, build connections, and discover new worlds beyond our own. Libraries are also sources of vital information about issues pertaining to public health, and legal and governmental regulations and information.

As places of refuge and support at the center of every community, the closing of libraries due to COVID-19 is significantly impacting both patrons and librarians.

To learn more about how the pandemic is impacting the young adults who rely on the Cranford Public Library in Cranford, New Jersey, SC&I spoke with alumna Stacey Shapiro, ’17, who is the Young Adult Programming Librarian.

Shapiro earned her Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) (now known as the Master of Information (MI) degree) at SC&I, and parlayed her coursework into her current position.

In 2019 she was honored by the American Library Association (ALA), who named her one of their Emerging Leaders. She is also a member of the 2020 Michael L. Printz Award Committee for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.

Read our Q&A with Shapiro below.

How has COVID-19 impacted your job responsibilities and daily life?

Right now, I'm working from home full time. I'm thankful that my director and board were on board with keeping library services going while also recognizing the need to shut down the physical building as a potential vector of disease. I'm working on promoting our social media and digital resources as best we can and providing teen programming as well. At the end of the month, I'm doing a live bake along with my teens and whoever else is interested on Zoom to make Katherine Hepburn's brownie recipes.

How are you keeping in touch with patrons remotely? Are they able to take out books somehow?

I've been doing some teen programming virtually through Zoom, both a Teen Advisory Group meeting and my normal monthly gaming program.  They can take out books through Hoopla and Overdrive right now.

What are some other ways the Cranford Public Library is supporting the community right now?

We're doing online story times, raised our Hoopla checkout limit, letting people get cards with the understanding that they expire after the library reopens, virtual crafting programs, as well as my teen programs.

What are some of the most significant reasons you pursued a career as a librarian, and has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted how you feel about the profession?

I became a librarian because I wanted to help people, and I feel like that's what we're doing during this pandemic. Closing helped close a vector of transmission for coronavirus. We can provide arts to entertain people while they're stuck at home.  We can still provide community in different ways. It makes me both hopeful and worried for the profession because of the range of ways I've seen libraries treat its employees. I'm glad that my library values employees and the services that we provide to the community.

Do you have any advice for current MI students about ways to prepare for and manage a crisis as a librarian? 

When applying to jobs, ask what their disaster plan is. I think in this current state of the world, it's imperative that libraries have plans, because we simply weren't ready for coronavirus.

Photo: A screen shot of Shapiro giving a recent online book talk. Courtesy of Stacey Shapiro.

Related SC&I article: “ALA Names SC&I's Beth Raff and Stacey Shapiro '17 2019 ALA Emerging Leaders.”

More information about the Master of Information Program at the Rutgers School of Communication and Information (SC&I) is on the website.


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