Cervantes: Library ready to serve in times of crisis

Library Director Michelle Cervantes writes a regular column for the Round Rock Leader. This one appeared online on March 30.

Michelle Cervantes
Library Director

Thursday morning, I emptied the outside book return at the library, and there were only a few items to quarantine. Not enough to fill one shelf on the book cart.

This time last year we were recovering from one of our busiest spring break seasons on record. This year is completely different.

In the book return, there was a copy of the Leader. A front page caption read, “The Round Rock Public Library has closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

I still can’t believe it. In my long career in public service, I’ve never experienced anything like this.

After a long week of stressful situations and difficult decisions, I went home, sat in my backyard to soak up the sunshine and sent my sister an Instagram message, “Livin’ la COVIDA loca.”

We are living in a crazy time right now. But serving during a time of crisis is nothing new to public libraries. We were there to help survivors after Hurricane Katrina and after 9/11, when the New York libraries opened mobile units.

The library has always been a refuge. This time is different, because we had to close our doors to the public. Once I got over the shock of that reality, it was time to figure out how to serve in a completely virtual world.

The next challenge we are preparing for is how to handle returned items. Whenever we reopen, we will have a wave of materials coming back to the library. Our plan is to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to quarantine materials for the recommended period of time.

We understand the concerns that many people have about virus spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. The quarantine plan is a precautionary measure, and unless materials were directly exposed to the virus, they are not contaminated.

On the bright side, this has been a great opportunity to share all of our digital resources with you. We don’t have to worry about having to quarantine ebooks.

The staff have been working diligently on projects such as moving the fiction collection, cleaning, inventory, virtual programs, virtual training, answering phone calls and emails, checking and posting on social media, updating the website and assisting other City departments.

Remember, the Round Rock Public Library is here to serve our community through tough times:

  • Virtual library services remain available at all times, and we are expanding the digital collection.
  • The book return is closed. Keep any items you’ve borrowed until we reopen or announce other options.
  • We are waiving all late fees accrued during the closure.
  • Staff are available to take your calls and emails, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

Thank you for your patience as we navigate these unprecedented challenges. Stay home, stay safe and hope to see you soon!

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