The staff of the Lawton Public Library remain hard at work during the pandemic as they come up with novel ways to continue to support the community and tweak some of their traditional services to better suit the current situation.

Helping Hands

Through community connections with poverty assistance groups, the library created the Helping Hands Bookmark. The bookmark contains a list of local social assistance agencies in Lawton.

The Helping Hands list includes homeless shelters, housing assistance, food pantries, clothing closets, meal services, healthcare and more. During the pandemic, the Helping Hands list has moved online and has been adapted to meet the need for information about COVID-19.

“It’s something I’ve been doing on Facebook with our Helping Hands list,” Jessica Weatherby, a library associate, said. “It’s always listed the different kinds of assistance that is available to people. Now it lists corona-related assistance.”

The new online list includes links to check the status of the government stimulus payment, unemployment assistance, frequently asked questions about COVID-19, links to the Centers for Disease Control as well as the City of Lawton’s information page regarding COVID-19 information.

City Information Center

During this time of civil emergency, the library is functioning as an information hub for the city of Lawton. Overflow calls from Lawton City Hall are being forwarded to the library and staff are assisting in answering those calls from the public.

“Anyone that has questions or complaints, we have been helping respond to those,” Weatherby said. “Each week, someone from the city stops by and gives us notes on what’s been updated. But we will refer calls up if we don’t know the answer.”

The most common question that library staff are asked is “when will things open back up,” according to Library Associate Saphyre Fisk.

“Calls have gone down to about 20 a day, but it was closer to 100 a day. It’s gone down a bit now because people aren’t as angry,” Fisk said.

While they have dealt with some anger and frustration, Fisk said they’d had some interesting suggestions made as well.

“We had one guy call in who tried to explain that everyone should drink bleach. He said he hadn’t been sick in years because every day he drank diluted bleach,” Fisk said. “I told him that was interesting, but I’d have to look into the science behind it. There is no science behind it. Don’t drink bleach.”

The FDA has long warned that drinking bleach products can lead to “severe vomiting, severe diarrhea, life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration, and acute liver failure.”

Misinformation like this has been rampant online during the last month in regard to COVID-19. As a bastion of knowledge, library staff are used to correcting false information.

National Library Week

April 19-25 the library celebrated National Library Week, and while the usual celebrations with patrons weren’t able to be held this year, the staff is still working on individual projects.

Librarian Rachel Pierce has taken to creating buttons proclaiming social distance slogan such as “do your part, stay 6-feet apart,” and “can’t touch this, I’m social distancing.”

Other celebrations took place online, like so many other events this last month, with patrons encouraged to visit the library’s website and social media pages. This year’s theme, “Find your Place at the Library,” took on a new meaning with patrons unable to visit the library.

Despite the interior being closed, many regular library services remain. Patrons are still able to pick up books with curbside delivery and the library is offering printing services which are currently free of charge.

“A lot of people need to print right now but can’t find a public printing service,” Weatherby said. “So we’re printing for free right now. All they have to do is email it to us then we print it out and take it out to them.”

Additionally, all late fee fines have been waived until Aug. 1.

Making masks for community organizations

While many places are sewing face masks right now, the library is taking a different approach. Utilizing its two 3D printers, the staff are creating respirator masks and face shields for community organizations in need of personal protective equipment.

“We have been printing these for about a month. They are 20 hours print jobs for three masks a day. They are a plastic material so you can put them in the dishwasher,” Stephanie Shrock, library technology specialist, said.

The face shields also are being printed on the 3D printers, though each of those only takes around six hours to print.

“We attach a sports band to those to make them more comfortable, and Staples donated the acetate (for the shield),” Shrock said.

The face masks have gone through a few different iterations since Shrock began printing them, and in their current form they are designed to extend the life of a cloth facemask by attaching it to the mask’s filter vent.

“This (design) has been the most successful and consistent,” Shrock said.

Summer Reading Program

This year’s summer reading program will look a little different, according to Library Director Kristin Herr.

“We are hoping for the best but also preparing for a summer of social distancing,” Herr said. “So we are moving the program online.”

It was a difficult decision, and Herr is expecting the program to undergo several changes as they transition it. But ultimately, the point of the summer reading program is to get people — children, teens and adults — reading.

Normally, Herr said the program is designed to prevent the “summer slide” while kids are out of school and maybe not reading as much. But this year, Tanya Organ, the youth services librarian, is calling it the “corona slide.”

“We are working on a website to host our summer reading. We are also going to try and do grab and grow crafts,” Organ said. “We’re still going to track your points and you’ll still have opportunities to win prizes.”

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