What gives you hope?

I keep seeing old program reminders pop up on my calendar, ghosts of a spring that had to happen differently. That makes me a bit sad, but then I remember that it didn't stop the library from reaching out to people. We've just had to do it differently.

It's been a while since I've posted on this blog, because I've been busy working on summer programs. Since everything is online this year, that has meant figuring out what we can offer and how to make it work. Some programs we've offered in the past are going online, and new program ideas are being tried. All of our procedures have changed for everything from ordering books to how we communicate with one another.

We're redoing Summer Reading Club to be all online for most patrons, but we're trying to offer a library-assisted method for people who can't go online to log their books. We're trying hard to make it all work, but it takes time to learn how to do this. We're building on what's been done in other places and talking about how to make it work in Batavia.

The library is talking about opening our book drops and offering curbside service soon, which means we're figuring out behind the scenes how to make that happen in the safest way possible. It gives me hope that we're finding ways to work together, even remotely.

So what gives you hope right now? Here's a small photo album showing a few of mine.

I love seeing the chalk drawings on people's sidewalks. I saw this artist working on a chalk drawing on the sidewalk leading up to an apartment building, and a couple of days later, we went by again and I saw the finished drawing. I love seeing little bits of beauty like that drawing shared with the world. That act of drawing gives me hope, even if the work has been washed away by now.

Even in the midst of chaos, sadness, anger, and fear, there are moments like this that remind me of the good people and good things still in the world, if only we take the time to look for them and to share them with others. In a normal spring, would the artist have taken the time to draw that? Would I have taken time to notice?

Other things I've noticed:
People setting out holiday decorations in their yard, like giant flamingos or even Halloween decorations.
A food pantry in someone's front yard, with more boxes and bags dropped off every time we go by.
Someone near our house has been displaying a new flag of the day in their yard with a note explaining which country or organization the flag is from. The two in my photo album are from the nation of Georgia (red cross on white background) and Vietnam (yellow star on red background).
Signs of caring, like a virtual hug. 

How about you? What have you noticed this spring?


So what happens after this?

There is no doubt that our public landscape will be transformed by this pandemic. What do you think will change after our stay at home order ends? What have we learned from all of this?

We've gotten much better at washing our hands, that's for sure. And we have learned a lot about viruses and how they spread, even if we don't fully understand this virus yet.

Going to the grocery store has already changed -- we're wearing masks and gloves and encountering plastic shields, changed hours, and some empty shelves. Who would have guessed hand sanitizer and toilet paper would be such hot commodities this year?

Libraries have had to change a lot this spring too. We miss visiting the library building, but we're offering more eMedia and helping people navigate our website and use our databases. We're offering information about social services for those who need them. We're doing more social media posts to keep connecting with our patrons and offering online programming whenever we can. And we're getting lots of practice at online meetings. I am trying out a new background at every virtual meeting now.

We're thinking about what will happen after the quarantine in terms of social distancing in public spaces. The Batavia Public Library board and staff are discussing what the library will have to do to reopen safely, and it's a long list of questions we need to answer and policies we need to figure out. Here are just a few of the things we're discussing:

  • Will we offer curbside pickup service? How might home delivery work for our homebound patrons? 
  • How many patrons will be allowed in the building at a time?
  • Will we have as many computers available as before? How will we keep them clean?
  • How can the staff stay safe? How many staff can work in a space at a time? 
  • What will the library environment look like, and how can we keep patrons safe? Will we have as much seating? How far apart will the chairs need to be? 
  • How will our book returns procedure change?
  • What will our programs look like? Our Summer Reading Program will definitely be changing this year, but rest assured, we know the Summer Reading Program is important to our patrons.

Although I feel isolated sitting at home typing on my computer, I'm hopeful that what we're doing now will help us weather other things in the future. 



Does anybody even know what time it is?

Are you feeling a bit disoriented right now? Join the club. We've had to learn a slower way of living without the busy-ness of a constant schedule of events. Even my cats have had to adapt to a different feeding schedule and people up at odd hours. Our days are marked by "I'll eat when I feel hungry" and "Oh, is it five o'clock already?"

I stay on track by putting on my exercise clothes at the beginning of the day. The rule is I can't change out of them until I do some exercise. Yoga pants are pretty comfortable, so it's not that bad. 

Do the days seem longer or shorter to you? Have you had trouble keeping track of what day it is? Do you stay in pajamas all day? How are you coping? Leave a comment below. 

At least nature is keeping on schedule. The days are getting longer. Crocuses have faded, daffodils are blooming, and tulips and hostas are sprouting. Turtles are sunning themselves on logs and frogs are singing in ponds. Migrating flocks of birds are passing by, and other birds are carrying off twigs for their nests. Friends are posting pictures of glorious sunsets and babbling brooks. Would we all have noticed such things if we hadn't had to slow down, if we could have gone to the gym instead of taking a walk?

Those still working are risking their lives, especially those without masks or gloves. Those of us who can stay home owe it to them to be courteous at the very least and make their work easier if we can. Here are a few suggestions to brighten someone else's day:

  • Tip those hardworking food delivery drivers.
  • Leave out treats (with a sign) for the mail carriers and package deliverers.
  • Food pantries need donations to meet increased needs right now. When my husband brought home two cans of Great Northern beans a few weeks ago, I showed him the five cans we already had. A few of those cans went into a bag for our local food pantry. 
  • Make masks for family, friends, and others who need them, especially out of fun fabrics.
  • Know a health care professional? Chalk their walk with a thank you message or put a thank you sign up in front of your home.
  • Send a card to someone at a nursing home.
  • Leave a teddy bear in your window or put up holiday decorations in front of your home, so that children walking by with their parents have something to look for.
  • Wave to your neighbors. Ask if they are doing okay and if they need something from the store.
  • If you are able to, give to a cause you care about. 
  • Some people are really struggling right now. If you know someone who might need a helping hand, now would be a great time to call them.

Let's come out of quarantine with a different mindset than before. We now know we're all in this together. So how do we help each other after this? #BataviaAloneTogether

Is waiting the hardest part?

This week was hard for me. It was depressing seeing the numbers of people infected and dying of COVID-19 continuing to rise despite so many people trying hard to stay home. It was so sad to read stories of those who have been affected by all of this and to see the number of obituaries in the paper. A few of the stories made me break down in tears. I've heard from friends who are struggling too.

This week, it's starting to hit home, and the future is sobering. We're in mourning for the way things were and the many, many people being lost to this dreadful disease. 

And yet, there's hope. Spring is springing. The squirrels got all of the crocuses I planted in the backyard, but all the ones I planted in the front yard are blooming. Daffodils are nodding their heads from the neighbors' yard. We took our first bike ride of the season over the weekend, careful to go while it was still cloudy so there were fewer people on the trail. 

People are turning to traditional ways of getting by. Baking bread, even making our own yeast using dried fruit or just flour and water. Sewing face masks for our families and for others. Writing letters to family and friends. Planting vegetable gardens. Taking walks as a family. It reminds me of things I heard from my grandparents about living through the Great Depression and World War II.

Queen Elizabeth II made a national address* recently that resonated with me when she said, "I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge, and those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any, that the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet, good-humored resolve, and of fellow feeling still characterize this country." The address reminded me of hardships faced by previous generations, and I was surprised that someone who lived through the London Blitz would be able to draw a parallel to people staying home in their pajamas today. We're not at war with each other, but we are at war with an invisible foe, health care workers bravely doing what they can to save the people they can while the rest of us retreat from each other in hopes of saving each other.

I hadn't thought about this as an historic time the way we think of major wars. But it is, and it's one we share with the whole world. Almost twenty years ago, you could go to an airport gate to say goodbye to a loved one heading off on a flight. All of that and more changed after 9/11, and we mourned then. We got back to a new version of normal, but it wasn't the same normal as before.

So what will change after 2020? Please leave a comment with what you think might change.

*If you would like to view the queen's speech, here's a link, or to read the entire speech, you can find it at this link.

Settling in for a while

The first few days of Shelter in Place saw a flurry of funny memes talking about living in our pajamas, trying to cut our own hair, and living with our families in closer quarters than we're used to, including homeschooling and working from home for many families.

And then lots of well-deserved thank yous were posted for health care workers, grocery store clerks, truck drivers, sanitation workers and many others still hard at work right now. Everyone is coping with cooking meals at home, budgeting with shrinking paychecks, and getting exercise when the gym is no longer an option.

Our instinct to gather together for joy in the best of times and comfort in the worst of times has had to change. We're trying to make March birthdays as special as possible for loved ones without exposing anyone to the virus -- my neighbors gathered six feet apart on one lawn to wish a child happy birthday with music, and others drove by in a happy parade of well wishers. A friend who lost her father recently was devastated that her family couldn't gather to mourn him. 

Back in 1918, who would have guessed that staying apart like this might be our best chance of saving as many people as we can? We're debating whether all of this is really necessary, and when people should go back to work. And we're seeing the rising numbers of those infected and those who have died from the illness. Are we doing the right thing? Will it be enough? Hope and patience are our greatest resources right now. But waiting is scary.

If you need to talk to someone, please reach out to a family member, a friend, or someone else you trust. We may have to be apart, but we don't have to do this alone. And if you know of someone who might need to hear from a friend, call them. 

In these last few days, people have started to realize how long this Shelter in Place might last. We're thinking of future events in even more tentative terms. Many spring events have been canceled, and others pushed off until the fall. We're wondering how long we have to stay inside watching TV and surfing the web. 

I take heart from the photos of empty streets, as strange as they are to see, that most people are choosing to stay home and that we will see the curve flattening soon. We are in this together, even if we can't hold a vigil to commemorate those we have lost, honor those working hard and risking their lives to help, and pray for those who are ill. We can still be lights in the darkness.

Please share your comments and stories below.

How are you doing right now?

Share your comments on staying home on the new Batavia Public Library blog, Isolation Stories.

My name is Christine Edison, and I'm one of the librarians at Batavia Public Library. It's hard to believe how much things have changed in the last few weeks. From some news stories about a novel virus in other parts of the world, we've gone from washing our hands more often and covering our coughs to isolating ourselves in our homes and working from home if we can.

I'm sorry the library can't be open for our patrons right now, and I feel guilty that we can't do more for the people who don't otherwise have access to the Internet. But we're doing what we can offering online services and hoping things will improve soon. We're buying eBooks and directing people to links to tide them over for right now. We're planning summer events and thinking ahead to life once we reopen. We're coping with a whole new world, just like you.

I've been reading lots of articles about the pandemic and how social isolation is the best defense we have right now of not overwhelming our healthcare system. But it can be hard to isolate ourselves in quarantine, to distance ourselves from friends and not go out someplace any time we choose. This blog is a chance for you to share your stories of what life is like right now.

Going to the grocery store yesterday felt like such an adventure to me. We were picking up groceries for the week and shopping for my mom. Some shelves were pretty bare, including the bread aisle. Others were being restocked as quickly as possible. We wore our gloves throughout the store, and no one blinked at that. Shoppers smiled at each other and edged around one another in our new dance of isolation. We were all in the same boat and trying to make the best of it. I'll admit, we were there a while, reveling in seeing things that were not the same walls of our home. And yet when we came home, I was relieved. I washed my hands and left my shoes by the door. I worried about whether we'd been exposed to the virus.

I watch TV now and marvel at all of the people clustered together in crowd scenes from just a month or two ago. And I wonder how long things will stay like they are today.

So here's a space for you to comment and share your thoughts on living in the year 2020. It's not a political space or an opinion page, just a place to share your own experiences. Does it feel weird to stay in your house so much right now? What are you doing? Have you tried anything new? Has this given you a new appreciation for the way your life used to be? Are you scared about the pandemic? Comments will be collected for the local historical record of this unprecedented international pandemic event.