Libraries, lockdown, and looking forward
Published on 27th January 2021
I remember leaving work last March and facing the long commute home slightly terrified and confused about this new virus and how working from home would pan out. Truthfully it has been a rollercoaster and one steep learning curve. There is something to be said for being thrown in at the deep end.
Crisis fosters creativity and comradery and there is a sense of urgency and responsibility to keep the flag flying. It made us stand back and take a good hard look at ourselves. So we got on with the business of libraries without walls.
Ten months later, Dublin City Libraries have more than 146 original videos, 324,512 views on social media, more than 238 (recorded) interactive events, a reach of 2,675,746 and countless invaluable interactions with our patrons. We're lucky to have a very hands on IT team that arranged for laptops and dongles and basically whatever staff needed for access to WFH. This was well underway prior to the first lockdown proper. No question is too big or small for our IT staff.
In this strange new world of Zoom and Microsoft Teams we made our first tentative steps. There were flurries of emails swirling with ideas and innovative ways to deliver services to patrons. Meetings, followed by more meetings. Emails with requests for experimentation using video or livestream on our social media platforms. Library work transformed and adapted to support our community.
Staff members came forward to offer individual skills. Every library is doing some form of virtual programming. Reading recommendations and book reviews on our blog are one way of engaging our community and also provide entertainment, escapism, as well as information during the crisis. Most of our library services adapted activities and events they would have delivered in their buildings to a digital format; to provide opportunities for learning and entertainment for children.
Spring into Storytime was a roaring success, with total views and participation on our social media platforms coming in at 62,085, for stories read by Irish authors and Librarians.
Right to Read is a national campaign to increase awareness of the benefits of reading and promote reading as a fun, recreational activity for children. Family events and activities take place in all libraries during the year to support the involvement of the whole family in children’s reading. In 2020 our events and book recommendations moved online for Spring into Storytime, Summer programme, Children’s Book Festival and Family Time at your Library. We were delighted to see our videos and events for families and children were viewed 146,397 times and were liked, shared and commented on 9,040 times. We would like to thank all our patrons for their continued support on our various platforms.
Ask a Librarian is another fantastic initiative that grew legs during the first lockdown. I absolutely enjoyed my time working on that and the one-to-one time spent dealing with customer queries. The positive interaction with the public gave me an extra boost on days when tasks that may not be my favourite bogged me down. I felt a bit like those volunteers you read about in history books like an auxiliary nurse or munitions worker; the Canary Girls of WW2.
Got a question? Need help with something? Our doors may not be open just yet, but your friendly Dublin City Librarians are still here and eager to help! Our librarians are available to answer your questions online and in real time.
Home delivery, this was the best idea by far, Dublin City Libraries, in partnership with the Dublin Volunteer Centre, have a book delivery service for people. Library staff take your request and organise the delivery of the items to your home, with the help of the volunteers. All items are on long loan, there are no overdue fines or fees and access to the service is always free. DCL have delivered 800 book parcels to older people and people who are long-term isolating since May last year. That's a whopping 4,000 items by mid-January 2021.
Whilst the doors of library buildings were closed to the public during lockdown, our eResources are open 24/7 and overall usage increased by 83% during 2020. This is due in large part to the support of our patrons making the move online with us. All the online resources are free to access to anyone with a Dublin City library card. If you are not a member, join up today. Here is a very healthy snapshot of our eResources:
- Borrowbox 125% increase
- Pressreader 200% increase
- Tumblebooks 555% increase
- Universal Class 235% increase
- Artist Works 125% increase
- RBDigital Comics 126% increase
- Naxos Music Library 62% increase
The 2020 History Festival went online and was a triumph hosting 46 events with attendance and views totalling 16,866. All festival events are free, but some need to be booked. The Dublin Festival of History is brought to you by Dublin City Council, and organised by Dublin City Libraries.
This year’s #Histfest2021 festival runs from 20th September to 10th October. The programme is a work in progress but keep an eye out on their website and on social media for updates. The Festival has gained a reputation for attracting bestselling Irish and international historians to Dublin for a high-profile weekend of history talks and debate.
Previous speakers include Jung Chang, Alison Weir, Ian Kershaw, Michael Palin, Anne Applebaum, Tom Holland, Simon Schama, Peter Frankopan, Richard Evans, Charles Spencer, Hew Strachan, Peter Snow, Robert Harris, Janina Ramirez and many more.
Dublin City Council Historians in Residence reached out to history fans around the city with a total of 21 online events, including Cathy Scuffil's popular Dublin Placenames series, garnering 14,843 plays and an engagement of 1,281.
The Dublin Literary Award team rose to the challenges when overnight the shortlist and winner announcement events were postponed. An unprecedented decision was made to move from live produced events to a selection of virtual events.
For the shortlist announcement in September, films of well-known Irish actors reading dramatised excerpts from the shortlisted books were filmed and produced in locations around Dublin. The short films brought the novels to life and were shared on the award’s website and social media pages on the day of the announcement.
Over 3,500 people tuned in to view the ‘shortlist on film’. In association with their new partner ILFDublin, a special podcast series was commissioned to encourage readers to engage with the shortlisted novels.
The DUBLIN Literary Award Ceremony in October was hosted by RTÉ Broadcaster Rick O’Shea in the Gravity bar at the Guinness Storehouse and the Irish Embassy in London. The winner event was pre-recorded and close to 570 people from around the world tuned in online to discover that Milkman by Anna Burns was the 25th winner of the award. Over 600 people relived the excitement of Anna Burn’s win by watching back an online recording of the ceremony.
Keen to create conversations with their followers about nominated novels, the DLF organised a number of very successful book giveaway competitions on social media, with readers as far as India entering the competition. Events transposed to a digital format has removed barriers, with attendance and viewing rates at multiples higher than events DCL would have delivered in their buildings.
City of Books podcast hosted by author and journalist Martina Devlin, talks books to all sorts of people who believe books matter. It’s sponsored by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature in association with MOLI, the Museum of Literature Ireland. Dublin One City One Book (now One Dublin One Book under the auspices of Dublin City of Literature) was one of the first festivals to reimagine itself in a virtual space with talks, discussions, and readings by actor Seána Kerslake all taking place online.
The crisis is not over yet but library staff will rise to meet the challenge. In the words of Andrew Carnegie, “There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.”
Submitted by the Communications and Digital Transformation Team in Pearse Street.