ROXBURY, NJ - Public Libraries are known to open doors, extend hours and expand services when a crisis hits. So it hurt deeply when the Roxbury Public Library was forced to close to the public on March 14. Since shutting its doors however, the library has managed not only to continue services but to completely reinvent itself and adapt to the new normal.
Books and more … 1,000,000 more
Calls, emails and social media messages continue to pour in and library staff are manning their desks from home and answering them. The library card is often overlooked but it is the most valuable card in your wallet especially during these tines. A Roxbury library card will give you access to nearly 1,000,000 eBooks, audiobooks, movies, TV shows, comic books and magazines. Avid readers and children in online school have more choices through the mobile device than the library's shelves can ever hold. Anyone without a card can apply online here!
Need a Career Boost?
Workers and those who cannot get to work can further their skills or change their careers entirely with Lynda.com, a premium and well-respected continuing education platform from LinkedIn. Roxbury Library card holders can access all 14,000 courses free of charge. There are no limitations! Learn video editing, social media marketing, AutoCAD, QuickBooks, Microsoft Excel, C++, Adobe Photoshop, and even how to build apps for Android and iOS. “It’s not just technical skills either,” exclaims Radwa Ali, Director of the library. “There are courses on public speaking, time management, managing people, leadership, online marketing, leadership and way more. The sky really is the limit, and with people spending more time at home we're seeing a huge increase in the number of people taking the opportunity to make resumes more attractive.”
The Library is Everywhere
Roxbury Library is known for its frequent and high quality programming for children and adults. Without a building how does a library deliver? The answer was a complete reinvention of the public library of course, including a new logo!
In addition to keeping the public informed with a timely and accurate coronavirus information center, The rebuilt website shows an array of diverse programming filmed, edited, produced and delivered online every single day (check out the full calendar here!). Mediation, chair yoga, dance classes, story times, crafts, STEAM activities, origami, book club discussions, lectures...you name it, Roxbury Library is trying it! Whether it's a story time with a dozen preschoolers on Zoom getting to sing along with their friends and favorite librarian, or an hour of Qi Gong Chair Yoga with neighbors to melt the anxiety away, the library is publishing a long stream of content to its Facebook page for all to enjoy.
A 21st Century Library for a 21st Century Workforce
Cognizant of its commitment to life-long education, together with the Roxbury Area Chamber of Commerce, the Library has been producing Business Beyond Basics seminars that debuted in January. These events provide continuing education programs that bring businesses and the community together to network, learn, and grow. Instead of postponing, the Library and Chamber will broadcast what promises to be a timely and informative session on How to Get Hired in the 21st Century, led by HR recruiter and President of Creative Workforce Solution, Sue Brocaglia. “We are experiencing a shift in how we work,” says Ali. “Now more than ever, employers need workers with skills that didn't even exist a few short years ago.” This event will take place over Zoom and registration is required.
But that's not all...
Recently, the Library decided to take more direct action to help the Roxbury community. Armed with its enormous patron database, library staffers are going through the list and, literally in descending order, calling the oldest and most vulnerable of Roxbury's residents to inquire on their well-being, let them know someone cares and will listen, and when need be to connect them to vital resources to get them through this difficult time. It's easy to forget, when surrounded by screens, social media, and zoom calls, that there are many without those luxuries...many have little or no access to the bottomless pit that is the internet and its resources.
Identifying a Need for Masks
Library staff discovered that the most requested item was, of course, masks. So drawing on the talents and generosity of staff, Library Trustees, and Friends, as well as a commitment from the Roxbury Rotary Club to fund the purchase of material, the library started making and distributing masks to those in need. A big kudos to library staffer B.J Rauschkolb, Trustee Patti DeFilippis, Belle Schwartz and Morris County Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo for making and sharing masks that staffers are out delivering.
85 year-old Shirley Troha was pleasantly surprised when she received a call from the library on April 14 asking after her well-being. She was downright delighted when, on the same day she expressed worry about not having a mask (she had been avoiding people and even going out to shop for 4 weeks) a homemade mask was delivered to her door by library staff. “Growing up in Roxbury I have seen many library changes,” she said. “I started taking my children to the various services offered in the old tiny library house over 58 years ago. Our township has grown but the library services and staff have kept up with the technology and needs of the people.”
Coordinating a mask operation is not something in any library’s procedure manual. But adapting to changing needs and pitching in are innate skills that libraries have been honing for years.
A Call for Help
The library needs help to help the community. As more calls are made, the number of mask requests has grown exponentially. Word is spreading, and they are now receiving calls (they are personally answering calls 7 days a week from home) specifically asking for a mask delivery. Library staff, Trustees and volunteers are doing what they can, but they just can’t sew them fast enough. If you have a sewing machine and can make masks, please drop them off inside the library return book drop. It is a secure location, protected from the elements, and is checked by staff every day. If you have the ability but no materials, contact the library (email@example.com or 973-584-2400) and they will deliver fabric to you.
In J.R.R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, when Frodo laments the difficult times his world is thrust into, Gandalf replies, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Roxbury Township has shown admirable grit and strength in the face of these uncertain times, and the Roxbury Library is proud to do its part.