On this week’s Princh Library Blog post we have guest writer Stephen Abram continuing to share his thoughts on how the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has affected libraries, and how libraries can adopt to create the “new norm”. You can read the first part of the article HERE.

Princh Blog Banner

Insights and ideas

Last month I explored the pandemic’s emerging effects and behavioural changes on public libraries, our members, and our communities.  This month I share a few ideas about how libraries can address the challenges that we face during the pandemic period which will likely last another 4 to 5 years.

Trust is Foremost

Public Libraries and their staff are among the most trusted institutions in society.  Some surveys put us in the top 5 along with emergency room workers and firefighters.  We are hyperlocal, service-oriented, and great at tech, and answering questions. We can be trusted to keep our members’ safe and their needs private.  And we are expert at that satisfaction key measurement – return visits.

That said, the pandemic will disrupt the relationship of our library members with the public library.  For example, we know from past experience that it can take quite a while for a public library to recover from a public bedbug infestation with initial drops of up to 20% in circulation.  Luckily, some libraries are on path to recover their circulation numbers during this exceptional year through sound and nimble strategies like digital access, holds promotion, curb-side delivery, and e-books promotion.  Of course, circulation is just a single core measurement in our 64-crayon portfolio of services.

Libraries are this: Not this:

As we adapt and create this next normal, we need to continue to promote the public library with Visible Trust.  The low-hanging fruit is signage which must be clear and positive (not generating or adding to fear) and avoid begging the question.  It helps to add a dollop of humour.

Staff should be trained and oriented to encourage library use AND re-build repeat physical/digital use and visits.  This needs to be supportive and indicative of trustworthiness as residents expand their bubbles to visit us as one of their chosen few retail-like spaces.  We need to deliver fine services in a visibly safe and caring environment.  Staff need to have a direct route and protocol for their own questions about safety and not engage in social media sharing their fears or uninformed opinions which could pollute viewpoints in our member populations.  Communication by management and Board needs to be proactive.

Framing all of your marketing and communications plans with a sensitivity to staff and community trust factors is a good start. Click To Tweet


The top goal of our society for the foreseeable future is RECOVERY.  We have recovered before from situations with similar features though by no means as long and comprehensive as this pandemic (bedbugs, ice-storms, SARS, extreme weather, strikes, etc.) and we learned from each.  Of course, this disruption is bigger, more complex, and longer-term but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to create better and stronger libraries with even higher impacts.  It will take a couple of years for the expected vaccines to reach herd immunity thresholds.  It will take longer for certain programs and services in the public library portfolio to recover the trust of members to congregate again.  That said, it may be a new world, but our members are the same old humans with needs, challenges, and dreams.

There are opportunities for new and innovative services to meet the emerging needs of our communities in recovery.  The recovery focus is not just economic.  It also needs to be social and behavioural.  Top of the list is to align your plans and offerings with community needs, local plans, and goals for recovery and prioritizing the library role within these strategies where the library can have the most impact alone or in partnership on our communities. A not inconsequential aspect of this is that you align with funding sources.

Solutions for Recovery

Following, I will show innovative opportunities that libraries around the world have exploited to support social and economic recovery in their communities.  Basically, there are two aspects for recovery – community recovery and public library recovery.

Community Pandemic Recovery


  • Employment recovery
  • Business recovery (Boards of Trade / Chambers of Commerce)
  • Culture and Attractions recovery
  • Tourism recovery
  • School and Higher Education recovery

Public Library Recovery


  • Circulation recovery
  • Reframing the technology strategy and capital investments
  • Reviewing collection balance (digital/physical) in the framework of changing needs.
  • Review our spaces and places inside and outside.
  • Re-training and developing staff in the new context and services.
  • Supporting Work from Home (WFH)
  • Supporting Learn from Home (LFH)
  • Supporting Job Finding
  • Engaging Teens and Tweens and homework, learning, and scholarship
  • Supporting Seniors
  • Offering services for wellness and social isolation.
  • Developing and supporting partnerships.
  • Reframing relationships with key allies (Town, Schools, Parks & Rec, etc.)
  • Offering entertainment services that cover for the lack of events and attractions (Reading, DVD, streaming media, programs, audiobooks, etc.)
  • Supporting parents and virtual child development (virtual story hours, etc.)
  • Etc.

WeWork-Like and WFH Programs

The pandemic brought on a slew of changes including teleconferencing, remote work, and other tech innovations.  Trends like automation, artificial intelligence, and touchless products and services are expected to shape our future workforces.  Employees will need regular support and training on platforms and technologies to meet heightened job demands, while companies need to oversee any automation or AI processes to ensure a smooth adaptation to new possibly hybrid working modes.

Last year, 2020, was heralded as the exciting start of the century’s third decade. Today, its conclusion cannot come fast enough for most businesses and entrepreneurs.  Yet the recent sweeping societal and corporate changes likely will not subside when the calendar hits 2021. In fact, these changes have altered life for the foreseeable future, and that’s not all bad for businesses.

Virtual working and coronavirus-linked workforce transformations have ushered in some massive tech innovations and opportunities.  Consequently, library leaders should keep an eye on the following trends aimed at swiftly adapting to tomorrow’s norms.  This is especially vital for communities where there is a high percentage of commuters.  Smart libraries are aligning their WFH programs and services to the new workday patterns and parenting/schooling needs.  What do people in your community need to learn and how do you scale and market it?  Simple licensing of a critical mass of online learning courses (we can’t handcraft enough of them) isn’t enough.  Teaching online learning basic skills as promoting the induvial courses at the volume we promote individual book titles is essential.  Remote workers requiring savvier back-end support and training.  In our physical spaces we need to review touchless and contactless everything.  We need to address the challenge of the peripheral.  People mostly don’t have a home set up that covers all of their needs, so we need to help beyond PC stations, BYOD and Wi-Fi with bookable scanners, printers, software, maker, and more.  This becomes to bridge for many people to learning achievement and employment success.


Safer Social Interactions