National Library Week 2021: State of Howard County Library System

Colorful banner with letters in bright boxes reads: Welcome to your library. National Library Week:: April 4-10, 2021

By Tonya Aikens, President & CEO of Howard County Library System

It’s National Library Week, a time to celebrate libraries! This year’s theme, Welcome to Your Library, is especially fitting as we welcome customers back inside our branches for limited in-person service for the first time since closing last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

While our doors were closed, our libraries were indeed open. Our team pivoted quickly and effectively to assist customers, develop and teach virtual classes, lead virtual book discussion groups, present renowned authors and speakers, coordinate virtual events, make more eBooks and eAudiobooks available, create a COVID portal with community resources, and work on a phased reopening plan – all while adapting to life in a pandemic.  

We created new opportunities to connect and engage – changing the Longest Table from a physical to a virtual table, converting the HiTech Carnival to a carnival-in-a-bag experience, transforming Evening in the Stacks into a virtual trip to Italy, adapting the Battle of the Books academic competition to an online space, creating Bundle Bags for people who missed being able to browse the shelves, launching a new blog, adding STEM Activity Kits to our collection, and lending Chromebooks and hotspots to help address the digital divide for those without devices or internet access.  

While dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also addressing the pandemic of racial injustice by integrating equity practices into our internal and external work, launching a Racial Equity Alliance, and supporting community building. Watch for news in coming weeks on our website and social media channels.  

Underlying all our work is a commitment to education for everyone in our community. We look forward to launching the On the Road to Kindergarten mobile unit later this summer, enabling us to bring our preschool classes and learning resources to children of families who do not have access to our six branches. By making these classes and services fully accessible, children can take their first steps to become ready for kindergarten. 

It’s clear that at Howard County Library System, we offer endless opportunities to transform lives, whether you visit our branches in person or virtually. 

We are grateful for our supporters and donors, especially the Friends & Foundation of HCLS, and our customers. Our staff is excited to welcome you back to your library! 

HCLS Reopening with Limited Capacity on April 5

A woman, with a ponytail and glasses and wearing a light brown corduroy coat, reaches for a book off a library shelf.

One year ago HCLS closed for what we thought would be two weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As it quickly became apparent that this was going to be a much longer closure, HCLS pivoted – teaching classes virtually, making more eContent (e.g., eBooks, eAudiobooks, movies, online classes) available, and working with partners to address the growing and serious needs of our community. The library’s executive team began preparing for a phased reopening, seeking guidance from public health experts and industry leaders. At all times, the health, safety, and well-being of staff and customers remained the top priority. 

We’re excited to welcome you back! 

Beginning Monday, April 5, HCLS will open for limited in-person services. Passport services will resume at the East Columbia Branch. Contactless pickup and Bundle Bags will continue to be available at all branches. Watch for details about how to sign up for 45-minute appointments in the coming weeks. 

As we prepare to move to Phase 4 of our reopening plan, please know that the return to our branches will not be a return to a pre-pandemic environment. We will continue to follow guidance from public health experts to prioritize the health and safety of our staff and customers. 

Starting April 5, you can make a 45-minute appointment to: 

  • Access public computers 
  • Browse the shelves 
  • Check out items using self-checkout machines or our new Meescan app  
  • Print, copy, scan, and fax 
  • Ask staff for in-person assistance finding materials or other resources 
  • Apply for a passport (East Columbia Branch only) 

Quarantining of Items 

Effective Monday, March 22, HCLS will no longer quarantine materials. This decision was made in consultation with local health officials based on the current data. There are no known transmission of COVID-19 through contaminated books or other library materials in any library.  

As understanding of the COVID-19 virus evolves, scientists and experts now know that materials can be safely handled without quarantine. National and local health officials continue to emphasize the importance of frequent, thorough 20-second hand washing. Data shows that hand washing is effective at reducing transmission of COVID-19. 

Thank you!

Thank you for your support and flexibility during this unprecedented time. Your comments, which are posted on our website, have been greatly appreciated by our staff. 

Thank you for your ongoing support and for taking good care of yourselves and others. We look forward to seeing you soon!