How A.Ok. Smiley Public Library dealt with a pandemic and got here by for Redlands – San Bernardino Solar

Early last spring, when California residents had to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most businesses adapted and found new and different ways to serve customers.

The AK Smiley Public Library was also among those who switched to all virtual services after closing its doors on March 16. Various services were already offered on the library’s website, but the staff has strengthened the available services and added new ones.

“We take great pride in our online databases,” said Don McCue, director of the Smiley Library. “The library board has spent decent money [to have those and eBooks]. We have identified additional money to increase our holdings in these areas. We also quickly took advantage of Kanopy, a free monthly educational and entertainment video service. We received enough hits that the library board decided to continue our service with them until the summer for a fee. “

At the end of March, the weekly virtual story times in the library’s Young Readers’ Room were started via Facebook Live. A month later, the Books to Go program was launched, with customers making book reservations through the website or phone and then traveling to the library and using COVID-19 logs to pick up a selection of bags. It was a success, so the library board decided to continue the service.

According to Nathan Gonzales, chief archivist and curator of the Lincoln Shrine Memorial Museum (part of the library’s special collections division) at AK Smiley, the transition to virtual services was a bit of a challenge.

“We had been working virtually with some things for the Lincoln Shrine, but we weren’t in the entire mindset of the virtual world as it all moved on,” he recalled. “It was a very quick spin to judge what we’re already doing. and ‘What can we do to change quickly?’ ”

The responses helped you determine which services and programs would be most useful for people who live in their homes around the clock.

“We had never done that before [and it took a while to figure out]”Gonzales said.” We didn’t know then how much life would change. “

Webinar Series Debuts

In mid-April, Gonzales and a colleague began developing the “Resilient Redlands” webinar series on Saturday morning, hosted by staff at the Smiley Library and the Shrine. The focus is on topics related to the history of the Redlands and the Lincoln Memorial Shrine collections and can be accessed through the library website, Facebook page, and Special Collections YouTube channel.

The webinar series and a related project, Resilient Redlands: COVID-19 and Our City, provide opportunities for community participation. “City” is about life during the outbreak. Residents electronically submit their experiences via photos, poetry, art, stories or anything else for the library’s COVID-19 memorial collection.

“As historians, we wanted to document that period of time – a turning point experience, a shared experience – for everyone here,” said Gonzales.

Considering the 1918-20 Spanish flu pandemic: “We know it happened and there are newspaper articles. But there isn’t a lot of material to work with, ”he added. “Because this is happening for us in real time, we can now create collections that people will see (see) in 100 years and see what was going on.”

Submissions include images from online meetings, yoga for one, landmarks around Redlands like empty store shelves at Gerrard and social distancing stickers on the floor.

“We have pictures of the State Street shops in their windows [when many were closed]”Gonzales said.” There are some fantastic photo submissions out there. “

In addition, a series of questions can help people share how their lives have changed. “It will allow future historians to know from a first-person perspective how people’s lives have been affected,” said Gonzales.

The webinar series will continue on the second and fourth Saturday of each month through December. “We will continue to accept submissions indefinitely,” said Gonzales. “We want to give everyone the opportunity.”

Also of note is a current online exhibition entitled “The Women’s Vote: A Century of Suffrage”, which celebrates the centenary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment and the efforts of local women to get it passed. Historical views of Redlands can be used as a virtual backdrop for Zoom meetings for free on the website.

Interestingly, the library, built in 1898, stayed open during the Spanish flu outbreak, although most other places in the city were closed. Back then, a smiley librarian described the building as well ventilated, rarely overcrowded, and not a source of contamination. Even so, returned books were fumigated before they were checked out again.

Today, Smiley staff disinfect books according to American Library Association guidelines. After a day or two in a book drop, the books are put in, wrapped with disinfectant (using gloves and masks) for 72 hours, removed from the bag, and the outside wiped with Windex and water. Reference wing tables, where users normally sit, are currently busy drying books in the final stage of the process.

“We will continue the sanitation process when we are back open to the public,” said McCue. “This process is being moved to our meeting room that was previously used for programming.”

  • The library employee Julia Hanna cleans up a book in the assembly room of the AK Smiley Public Library. (Photo by John Valenzuela)

  • Books lie on a table after disinfection. (Photo by John Valenzuela)

  • sound

    The gallery continues inSeconds

  • Youth Welfare Librarian Pamela Martinez is preparing to take the temperature of visitors before they are allowed to enter the library. This is one of the measures that are taken to ensure the health of visitors and employees. (Photo by John Valenzuela)

  • Pamela Martinez checks the temperature of a young library visitor. (Photo by John Valenzuela)

  • Despite other closings during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, the Smiley Library remained open. This headline appeared in the October 14, 1918 issue of Redlands Daily Facts.

  • Alfred, left, and Albert K. Smiley (photo courtesy AK Smiley Public Library)

  • The tables in the reference wing of the AK Smiley Public Library, which were used by library users before the pandemic, are now often busy drying books during the hygiene process. (Photo by Eric Reed, 2015)

Financial challenges

From a financial standpoint, McCue said that once the crisis erupted in March, his staff feared that “the other shoe that could be dropped would have an impact on the city’s finances. We were asked to cut $ 733,000 and eventually the city went down to $ 533,000. That was about 20 percent of our budget.

“Since much of our money, about 97 percent, is tied to salaries and benefits, it meant layoffs,” added McCue. “We looked at some pretty severe cuts in our hours, reduced from 56 to 35 and 12 positions.”

When the city was unable to fund the library to provide services that the citizens of Redlands count on, Smiley staff reached out to residents in a variety of ways.

The library increased the city’s budget through a combination of library endowments and $ 193,000 that the community quickly raised in June.

“In traditional years we get $ 90,000 from the foundation,” said McCue. “Now we’ve added an additional $ 319,000,” including $ 126,000 from the library’s reserve fund.

On the job, a dozen of the library’s 33 employees worked from home after it closed in March.

“Throughout April, work on ordering books, processing books, retrieving materials, writing our newsletter, and delivering training continued, even though we did not directly provide materials to the public,” said McCue .

Three part-time workers were eventually laid off and two full-time workers were transferred to part-time status.

“In my 30 years here, it was probably the toughest month I’ve ever had,” the library director admitted. “Without [the support from] People in the church, it would have been a lot worse. “

On September 9, the AK Smiley Public Library resumed its personal services, which required face covering and social distancing. Guests are limited to hourly visits and the temperature is checked upon arrival. There is a new entrance through the kindergarten and guests leave the room for young readers. Roadside Books to Go service will continue.

“Getting a book or information and feeling connected to the rest of the world is pretty important at this time of pandemic,” said Bill Hatfield, president of the library’s board of trustees. “The fact that everything we do is free means you can still have this service when you’re unemployed or your budget is stressed.”

Hatfield noted the calming effect of the building and the importance of the overall experience.

“I think people missed that ability to come in, sit down with a book or magazine, and have time to enjoy the aesthetics and the architecture,” he said. “Through all of this, we had a fantastic staff. They worked out their hearts. I think they look forward to getting people back. “

AK Smiley Public Library

  • Where: 125 W. Vine St., Redlands
  • Hours: Monday to Tuesday 2pm to 6pm, Wednesday to Thursday 1pm to 5pm, Friday to Saturday 12pm to 4pm, closed on Sundays; The Heritage Room is only available by appointment.
  • Information: 909-798-7565,

Transition timeline

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was a year like no other for the AK Smiley Public Library:

  • 4th of March: Governor Gavin Newsom announces a state of emergency in California.
  • March 10th: Local health emergency declared by the San Bernardino County Health Officer and board of directors.
  • March 12th: COVID-19 logs in the Smiley Library. The staff installs new signage and removes a third of the chairs and computer stations before opening.
  • March 16: The library was closed after a meeting between the Smiley leadership and Redlands City Manager Charlie Duggan who declared a state of emergency.
  • 19th March: Nationwide residency from Governor Newsom, except for key businesses.
  • 17th April: The library’s planned closure by the end of the month has been extended until further notice.
  • April 27th: The Roadside Books to Go program begins and is considered a success.
  • 3rd of June: The community fundraiser begins. ends in less than a week of reaching the goal.
  • September 9th: The library is reopened for restricted services.

Publisher’s Note: A version of this story appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of Redlands Magazine.

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