COVID-19 Changes Menlo Library Operations


Andrea Li

The library, usually filled with students, is now usually empty due to the pandemic. This change has greatly affected the library and its services. Staff photo: Andrea Li.

Andrea Li, Staff Writer

COVID-19 has impacted Menlo’s library since the service heavily relies on in-person contact to be able to function. Subsequently, the librarians have adapted the library’s services in order to keep it running smoothly during the pandemic.

Head Librarian Cathy Rettberg has worked with online ebooks much more in order to keep the library functioning. “I stopped buying very many print books but started growing our ebook collection. […] Pretty much anything a student asked for that was an ebook, I bought,” Rettberg said.

When distance learning started, Rettberg set up a drive-through system for Menlo community members to pick up library books. During hybrid learning, there have been alterations to hard copy book circulation services in order to adapt to the current needs of students. “We really haven’t been doing [the drive-through circulation] since everybody came back in the current hybrid 50% model. […] Now it seems like we’re able to serve people as they need it, with half of the students on campus. We keep a cart outside the library so anyone can email us or use the book checkout system […] and request a book,” Rettberg said.

Assistant Librarian Tracey Bobrowicz sends out daily newsletters in the form of emails during the pandemic, which has helped to garner interest in the library. “I also send out a daily newsletter of books that we recommend, [including] an ebook, audiobook and print book, to all students in the middle school […] and all ninth-grade students […] because those are our biggest readers. [Rettberg] has also seen readership in electronic books really go up. Personally, I think that’s because I’m reminding students every day that they have these opportunities,” Bobrowicz said.

The pandemic has negatively impacted the library in several ways. Assistant Librarian Annette Fabris has discovered that the pandemic has put a damper on the artistic side of running a library. “I miss the creative side of my job. With the library currently closed, there are no opportunities for book displays to promote new books, special collections or school events,” Fabris said.

Rettberg believes the pandemic has hugely impacted the library. “We have no students in the library. That’s huge. The vast majority of what we do interacting with students in-person,” Rettberg said. “So, all of a sudden, the biggest part of what we do is gone.”

For Rettberg, not being able to see students in-person has been a disadvantage. “I can only speak for myself, but I think this is largely true of school librarians in general. I chose being a school librarian […] because I enjoy interacting with people. So, what’s made it hard is missing that whole aspect of the thing that makes my job fun,” Rettberg said. Rettberg also mentioned that she and the other librarians miss having students in the library, especially the many casual interactions with students that they have in the library.

Similarly, Bobrowicz dislikes not being able to see students in-person. “I dislike not seeing students because what I love about my job is to interact with students, to talk to them, to find out what they’re reading and just get to know them,” Bobrowicz said.

Despite the lack of in-person interactions, the library has experienced some unexpected benefits of distanced or hybrid learning, including the benefit of having extra time. “It’s nice to be able to do this deep dive into our collection [and] into curating a better collection that represents […] our more diverse student population. So we’re about to conduct an audit into that, and that’s really time-consuming […] and I would not have been able to do that during a regular year,” Bobrowicz said.

Bobrowicz has also adapted a middle school club she has been running called The Scary Story Book Club to make it an enjoyable experience over Zoom. “What the pandemic has allowed me to do is reimagine [my] club, and now I host, online, a scary storybook club over Zoom. I have loved this new direction for book club. […] Now, over Zoom, I share animated scary stories from all over the world with students,” Bobrowicz said. “I feel I have been able to use Zoom to create something different and fun.”