EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Out of an abundance of caution, the East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) closed their facilities to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. But that didn’t stop library staff from finding ways to provide library services to the community.
“The library has been closed for over two months,” said Melissa Kuzma, Interim Library Director. “I still can’t believe that we’ve been away from the library and our customers for that long. But we’ve been able to accomplish so much to serve the community.”
Browsing the library for a book is impossible during the quarantine era. The library has seen an incredible spike in the use of its online resources. In the past two months, about 16,000 eBooks and e-audiobooks have been checked out digitally. This is an increase in circulation of 135%.
East Brunswick Public Library also offers access to digital magazines, movies, television shows, comic books and graphic novels. A complete list of digital offerings can be found online at www.ebpl.org/virtuallibrary.
With the library being shut down, the reference desk has moved into the digital space. Library staff is working remotely on weekdays from 10 am to 6 pm. Customers can ask reference questions by leaving a voicemail or e-mail
s. Librarians have answered over 400 questions covering a variety of topics, including unemployment resources, filing taxes, medical information and how to connect to community services.
East Brunswick Public Library’s programs and special events also found a new home online. Instead of assembling in the library’s meeting rooms, audiences are gathering in the library’s Zoom conference room. Online programs have featured doctors, New York Times bestselling authors, business experts and artists, all sharing their expertise with the community.
Library staff have also been creating YouTube videos, sharing craft projects, story times, cooking demonstrations and book reviews. The library has also crowd-sourced these productions to teen volunteers looking to earn service hours.
The library also held online workshops with the Small Business Administration about how to obtain recovery funds. The library’s technology trainers shifted the direction of their classes, now providing introductory courses on computer and coding skills job seekers need.
“I am absolutely blown away by our staff’s creativity,” Kuzma added. “I can’t believe how quickly everyone came together to reimagine our services and to move them to a virtual platform, and how well our customers have responded.”
Even with the building physically closed, 186 East Brunswick residents were issued their library cards online. This allows library customers to start using the library's ebooks and other online services within twenty-four hours. East Brunswick residents interested in signing up for their card can visit www.ebpl.org/signup.
Although there is no official reopening date, East Brunswick Public Library is working on a reopening plan that ensures the safety of library customers and staff. This includes increased social distancing throughout the building, quarantining library materials and a curbside pickup program.
“Our biggest concern is keeping everyone in the library safe,” Kuzma said. “How we do things in the library may change, but our goal is to provide the same level of service that our customers expect.”
“We would also like to thank our customers, the Library Board of Trustees and East Brunswick Town Council for their patience and support during this unique time. I can speak for everyone who works at East Brunswick Public Library; we can’t wait to welcome you all back to the library.”