A Year of Change
2020 was a year to remember, as the COVID-19 pandemic brought big changes to our community. Naperville Public Library started the year with a focus on expanding our services and community outreach. We also debuted the Sensory NPL app to help customers with autism or sensory disabilities use library services.
In mid-March, the library was mandated to close our buildings through a statewide order. Because the library has a rich array of online resources and collections, we never really “shut down”. Instead, we began to place an increased focus on our digital collections. Online book, movie, and music services like Overdrive and Hoopla saw large increases in usage, and we focused on getting even more popular content for these collections.
We also took the opportunity to debut digital programming. We offered a wide array of digital programs on Zoom, Facebook, YouTube, and other digital platforms throughout the year. Kids enjoyed storytimes, online escape rooms, craft programs, and even screen-free printable kits. Adults attended programs like brown bag lectures, Zoom business meetups, book clubs, and programs on civic engagement. Some programs became even more convenient for customers in the online format, so we will continue to offer online programs even when our in-person programming returns.
As we entered Phase 2 of the Restore Illinois plan, the state allowed public libraries to implement curbside service. Naperville Public Library was one of the first libraries in Illinois to debut curbside service on May 4, 2020. Customers could place materials on hold and have these items delivered to their cars. Library staff from all departments pitched in to help make sure we could get materials into the hands of our customers. Curbside service proved to be so popular, we brought it back in November as a permanent service.
A Safe Experience
On June 15, 2020 we were again one of the first libraries to reopen our buildings for browsing and materials checkout during Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois plan. Within a month of reopening our buildings, the number of items checked out quickly rose to comparable levels from the previous year.
We focused on a safe experience for customers and staff, with our public services staff wiping down self-checkout stations after every use, facilities staff cleaning high touch areas at least every 2 hours, hand sanitizer in all lobbies, and the enforcement of a statewide mask mandate.
Programs in a Pandemic
Within 2 weeks, Illinois went into Phase 4 of Restore Illinois, and we brought back public seating and public computers. We continued to provide a safe experience with tables and computers appropriately spaced. As weather allowed, we moved many children’s programs and storytimes outdoors to help with social distancing. We also added storywalks to Nichols and 95th Street Libraries as a fun, family activity outdoors. Other programs, like our Party That Shall Not Be Named, moved to an online format.
Although the year ended with a new spike in COVID-19 cases and additional mitigations placed on Illinois businesses, the library was able to stay open for browsing and checkout of materials. During this time, we added several new collections, including binge boxes with sets of movies around a central theme, and PlayStation 5 and Xbox X games.
A Community Hub
Throughout the year, the library continued to be a community hub. The new 95th Street Community Plaza, a partnership between the library, Naperville Park District, and City of Naperville, debuted as a great outdoor space for families on Naperville’s south side. We partnered with the Will County Clerk’s Office to provide early voting at 95th Street Library, with lines often stretching out to the Plaza. We worked with the Naperville Census Complete Count Committee to help distribute reliable information and promote our local Census count.
We also partnered with many other community organizations like Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, DuPage Children’s Museum, Naperville Police Department, Rotary Club of Naperville, Versiti Blood Center of Illinois, League of Women Voters, Dementia Friendly Naperville, both Naperville school districts, Edward Hospital, and the Kids Matter Collaborative Youth Team.
A Place To Be
While we can’t predict what the coming year will bring, Naperville Public Library will be here to serve the community and provide resources that inform, inspire, and encourage imagination. We continue to be A Place To Be and The Place to Become… with a focus on helping improve and enrich the lives of all Naperville residents.