How Has Your Library Use Changed During the Pandemic?

Many bloggers are avid library users, perhaps returning each month or each week– or even more frequently– to browse the collection, pick up holds, and attend library programs. When the pandemic started, however, most libraries eventually shut down (though many held out longer, regardless of safety concerns, presumably due to “vocational awe“). Programs were moved online, browsing prohibited in favor of curbside pickup, and buildings closed to the public. Each library system has reacted differently, with some moving to near “normal” operations by the summer or fall of 2020, others choosing to open by appointment only, and still others opting to remain closed to the public for the foreseeable future. Regardless of the path chosen, however, the pandemic has undoubtedly changed both the way libraries operate and the way people view them and use them.

For my part, I had to accept that the closure of the libraries meant no more browsing. In some ways, this did not affect me overly much. I am already familiar with how the online catalog works and the procedures used to place a hold on an item. I also follow the book industry and thus am positioned to be able to look up desired titles fairly easily, unlike many others who presumably do not follow authors or publishers online, and many only realize their favorite writer has released a new book when they see it on the shelf. Even so, I still enjoy browsing. I still find titles I might have otherwise overlooked, perhaps because of limited marketing or perhaps because somehow the title did not catch my eye when I saw it online. For me, some of the joy of serendipity was lost when the libraries closed.

Additionally, I had to switch over to e-books for a long time. Although I do own an e-reader, I much prefer to read hard copies of a book, especially if the book is longer or contains weighty material. I did not particularly enjoy the days when I was forced to read digital copies only. And, of course, because digital materials are so much more expensive for libraries to purchase than physical copies, I had only a limited selection of titles to choose from, with long wait lists on top of that. Services such as Hoopla, where libraries pay per borrow, are nice, but not every library has them and libraries still put a cap on a user’s monthly borrows. Because I read extensively, I cannot rely only on a service like Hoopla.

For some, I imagine that the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way they use the library. Some people may have realized that they can place holds on books from other libraries and have them delivered to their home library. Some people may hope curbside delivery continues and they never have to step foot in the building again. Some people may have realized that they can borrow e-books and will continue to do so even once the libraries reopen fully.

As for me? The pandemic has changed how I use the library, but not in a way I wish to continue. I long for the day when I can browse the bookshelves freely again, when the processing department is not a month to a year behind in putting new books on the shelf, when I can read only physical volumes and ditch the e-reader. And, yes, I long for the day when I can meet people in-person during programs, and not only see them on a screen. (Bonus if we get free snacks!) The pandemic has changed the way I use the library, but that has only made me appreciate the library and all its services all the more.

What about you? Has your library use changed? Will you keep these changes going forward? Do you see yourself, for instance, borrowing more e-books in future or attending virtual programs?

30 thoughts on “How Has Your Library Use Changed During the Pandemic?

  1. Nish says:

    I haven’t been to a library in the past couple of months – heavy lockdown here in India. Last year, I could go to the library but it was obvious that it was struggling. Libraries in India are private, and need to turn a profit. Unfortunately, that’s not been the case.

    My library which is a fairly large and successful chain has been struggling to procure new books, maintain facilities. It’s now in some rundown place. I would be surprised if it survived this lockdown.

    I am not a fan of e-readers, and I don’t own a kindle. But I am now seriously thinking of buying one and going digital completely.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, it definitely depends on where you live! It can be really weird in the U.S., for instance, because some states have proceeded the whole time as if there is no pandemic, while others had/have strict lockdowns. The library I go to has been closed since last spring, but other ones in the area have been open since maybe last summer or fall. It’s like it all depends on how much a specific library board is personally worried about covid, the budget, and community pressure to reopen.

      It’s really sad, though, how the pandemic has affected libraries. It’s heartbreaking that your library might not be able to make it through.

      Like

  2. Books Teacup and Reviews says:

    I got my library card this year but so far I only borrowed 1 book. Because of second wave most of the time library was closed and other time we don’t dare to leave house to visit public place. Library in my city doesn’t have latest books and sometimes they don’t have all book in a series so I don’t think I missing much. I go to borrow old popular books and some classics. They don’t even have e-copy service but thankfully publisher and NetGalley makes it possible for me to read e-copies.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I’ve definitely been to libraries of varying quality! I remember going in to one and they only let people borrow maybe five DVDs at once. I was so astounded! But their collection was tiny, so I guess they didn’t want one person to walk off with all of it.

      Sometimes when I see a library is missing books, I put in a purchase request. I think the librarians don’t always realize a book is missing from a series unless someone mentions it because they’re just assuming it’s checked out or something. But it definitely depends on the library, how much funding they have, and how friendly the staff is. Some are not very friendly when you ask about a purchase!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. itsKoo says:

    Great post!! It’s interesting reading how reading habits have altered. Prior to the pandemic, I was strictly a print book reader but this has changed my reading habits and thus my library habits. I will likely continue reading ebooks from the library because it’s a lot easier especially when a library doesn’t have the print copy immediately available.

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    • Krysta says:

      I do like the ease of borrowing ebooks–and that they return themselves so you don’t have to worry about running back to the library! Sometimes those due dates creep up fast!

      Like

  4. mphtheatregirl says:

    Haven’t been to the library for a long time.

    When it comes to library, I borrow them to read on my kindle.

    My other books are bought- a combo of kindle and physical books

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  5. mistysbookspace says:

    For me I didn’t use the library at all from March 2020 on. I have Libby but they don’t offer a whole lot of books that I am wanting to read right now so I just didn’t borrow from the library at all. I have started going back to the library this year though because they are pretty much open normally now.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, the selection of ebooks from my library is pretty sad. I know the licenses to purchase ebooks are really expensive for libraries, but it does mean I have stopped even looking at the Overdrive catalog because the wait lists are so long.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lexlingua says:

    I’ve never used libraries too much (well, other than at school anyways). But I *have* tried Open Library, and they have some of the older SFF books. Should explore that some more, and any recs if you know of any other online libraries!

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    • Krysta says:

      I don’t know of many online libraries that don’t require you have to have card to access them, other than things like Project Gutenberg, which are only works out of copyright. But many libraries now let you get a card online, so you can get a card and then borrow ebooks without ever having to go to the actual building.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Nancy says:

    As a teen librarian, I have had to adjust quite a bit. Our library subscribed to Hoopla and I spent quite a bit of my budget on e-books for our other two online book platforms, Libby & Axis 360. All my programs went online with supply kits & Zoom meetings. We have now been open to browsing for awhile, and as the staff member who handles the social media accounts, I have pushed information out, so our patrons know we are open and what we offer. When we first closed my family gave me a list of books and movies they wanted, and I brought home a box of “essential” supplies for us! 😉

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I love that! The day I learned other buildings in the area were closing, I brought home a stack of maybe 10-15 books from the library. Everyone was looking at me like I was doing something really strange! But the real joke was, that didn’t end up being enough books!

      And, yeah! I started using Hoopla, as well. I always got the impression libraries were a bit hesitant to subscribe to things like Hoopla because it’s pay per borrow, but I guess with the pandemic, many didn’t have much of a choice. But maybe they reallocated funds from the physical book budget. I have no idea.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. ofmariaantonia says:

    I am so thankful that we can pick up books, but I do long for the days when we can roam freely and look at what’s on the shelves.

    Sadly, I discovered that they got rid of some of my favorite books during this past year. Books, I have gotten out again and again. And now they are gone!! Why? Sigh.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      What? No! Why would they get rid of them? I know libraries have weeding schedules and maybe yours weeds out books that haven’t circulated in, say, one year. But…I would think that knowing the library has been closed would mean staff would realize that the weeding schedule might not be entirely accurate. Of course nothing’s moved. The building’s been closed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ofmariaantonia says:

        I do not know why. But they have been on this rampage for a few years now.

        My sister-in-law said he saw the DUMP a whole bunch of in a dumpster. I had a hard time believing her that any librarians could do such a thing. But now that I have seen that certain books are missing, I realize that she wasn’t mistaken!!

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        • Krysta says:

          Okay, that’s admittedly weird. As far as I know, most libraries try to sell the books first (assuming they have a book sale). If the books are too out-of-date or dirty to sell, the library would then recycle them. Not throw them in a dumpster! Every book has a life cycle, I know, but a dumpster??

          Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I keep seeing people talk about the “rise of e-books” and such, but, well, yes, of course there was a rise during the pandemic! That doesn’t mean it’s the future of publishing. Maybe a lot of people are like me and want to return to print. We just don’t know yet.

      Like

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