I live in a small rural town. For us the lockdown has been heaven. None of the constant traffic or explosions of population during the tourist season. Like elsewhere in New Zealand we have experienced, cleaner air, birdsong and friendship with our neighbours in ways not possible before the pandemic. A stroll down the street is met with cheery waves and “How are you doing? Keeping safe?
While it feels like a bygone era, time does not stand still.
In her article Liz McGettigan, Director of Digital Library Experiences, SOLUS UK, and Co-Chair of Internet Librarian International, say post-pandemic “People will be hungering for social interaction and connectedness, for kindness, trust, community and social gatherings and we can plan for that now. We are all already hungering for human contact, and places just to be, things to do, people to see! Yes we need to up our game big time on our digital offer but when this is over digital will fail to rival libraries and their staff in these 4 purely human characteristics - Empathy, Sympathy, Passion, Curiosity - we still want access to “actual” people even when digital works perfectly.”
There is no doubt the digital future is here. The COVID-19 experience brought it to the fore and we know things will not quite be as they were before. Ways of communicating brought us together and helped us see other ways of working. We already know many monotonous back-end functions will be superseded by artificial intelligence (AI), VR and automation, 3-D printing and robotics.
Books were the technology of the day when libraries first opened to provide trusted information and “opportunities for betterment to all citizens of a civilised society”. Our means of telling stories and imparting knowledge has diversified.
Liz Gitterns again, “Libraries serve so many in the community in so many ways other than books. From makerspaces, teenhubs, digizones, fab labs and business centres to name but a few to story times to learning, access to IT and Wi-Fi. Quite simply often just a free and safe space to be and meet people.
The increase in digital needs has heightened during the social distancing and stay-at-home orders and libraries now need to engage their audiences virtually in order to maintain a vital role as a resource for reading, learning, health and wellbeing and indeed loneliness and mental health. This will require reshaping their future and redesigning the relevant, experience based “next” Library”