Community Libraries during COVID 19

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly spread around the world. It has had a massive impact on how we deal with everyday life, and there is the agreement that our lives going forward will be different. Community libraries work with people in their societies, and in the wake of all these changes, they have been some of the most profoundly affected entities. This has led to closure of social and public institutions because it spreads from person to person. Now with libraries and schools closed, it has been an uphill to access reading resources in marginalized or underdeveloped communities.

Bridging the gap!

My name is Kelvin Gwuma, and I work with SAIDE Community Library based in Chavakali, Vihiga County, Kenya. Since the Coronavirus pandemic struck, it has been a challenge to operate regarding the safety guidelines. As a library, we have committed, since day one of the pandemic, to try and align our operations with the safety guidelines provided by the government and other health experts. We have continued, albeit with the limited resources we have, to ensure that our visitors are handled in a safe that helps contain the virus. We recognized that we are part of society, and we had a responsibility to join the fight.

Library shelfie with mask!

Since February there has been two dimensions on our role as a library to this pandemic, and they are as follows; promoting public health awareness by creating and disseminating information relating to preventive measures and meeting the core needs of a regular library user. On the promotion of public health awareness, we continually remind the general public on the importance of maintaining a high level of hygiene, social distance, using masks, and stay home directive by the ministry of health in avoidance of the spread of this pandemic. We utilized our facility and platforms like social media to amplify the authorities’ message on handwashing, sanitizing, wearing masks, and keeping social distance.

On misinformation as a library we try to counteract fake news by sharing reliable information through our social media platforms, i.e. Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. This is to try and control fake news as much as possible. We realize that we have an obligation to inform and build community knowledge. We have both, directly and indirectly, tackled misinformation by ensuring that the community around and our many patrons all access the right information, and we also try to address their concerns about the disease whenever they can. One thing we have realized is that misinformation and fake news are not just internet-based problems; these forms of misinformation have found their way to the local communities, and we have continued to find ways to fight it.

Continuity

SAIDE Community library continues to position itself for continuity both currently and for the world after COVID19.  We have continued to support regular users by organizing virtual makeshift studio lessons carried out by voluntary teachers on platforms such as Zoom and Facebook live.  We have been delivering books to our readers and those who have to come to the library they have to put on facemasks and sanitize. The online studio classes have particularly received massive support from the community, and it is an area we are seeking to continue building. Our readers have also appreciated our attempts to deliver them books whenever they need without hindering the health guidelines.

Cushioning the vulnerable communities

As a social responsibility, we’ve been fundraising for personal protective effects of cushioning the who are unable to access them. This month we will supply 70 young girls with 196 packets of pads. This will be able to assist them for the next month. Sanitary hygiene remains a critical issue, especially for girls from poor backgrounds. The adverse economic outcomes associated with coronavirus have meant that such girls struggle with accessing sanitary hygiene products, and this is an area we hope to continue assisting whenever we can. Also, we are exploring other areas of supporting the vulnerable members of our community.

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