Pueblo County Libraries Reach Patrons Digitally During Coronavirus With ‘The Library @ Home’

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The Pueblo City-County Library District recently launched a digital branch, called "The Library @ Home." Users can access resources and digital programs through a centralized hub while the library is closed due to COVID-19 precautions.

Jon Walker, the executive director of the library district, said the library had some online services in place before the novel coronavirus pandemic, but digital programs are opening up new ways to reach the community.

"We're learned how to do things in ways we really didn't contemplate a lot two or three months ago, and they do give this alternative path for us to continue to focus on in the future," said Walker.

Walker said, for example, a recent digital storytime hosted on Facebook Live reached over 1,400 people, well over the physical capacity for an in-person storytime.

As the library adapts, librarians are also aware of the digital divide that exists in some Pueblo County communities.

Amy Nelson, director of the Rawlings Library, spearheaded a "Talk to a Librarian" service for patrons. She says when the library closed its physical doors, that also meant some people in the community lost computer access.

The service makes librarians accessible via phone during business hours. She said librarians field between 30 and 50 calls a day through the program. They offer answers to questions related to the new coronavirus, like applying for unemployment benefits and small business loans.

Nelson said offering this service by phone in addition to digitally is an essential way to continue supporting the community during this uncertain time.

"As a librarian, there's a blur between my career and my reason for being," said Nelson. "So being able to reinvision what we're doing to support our community has really meant the world to me. I feel like I have a sense of purpose. I've been able to continue to serve my community and make it stronger, which is my entire life's mission."

Walker said the library is looking to continue many of these digital resources after the library opens its physical branches. In the meantime, they are also looking into curbside pickup and mail delivery options for physical library lending as state restrictions ease over the next few months.

Editor's Note: We originally misidentified the Rawlings Library as the Rollins Library. That has been corrected.