Keeping in touch: Tonganoxie Public Library staff member checking in on partons during pandemic
Tonganoxie Public Library’s new location hadn’t been open even a week when director Nicole Holifield made the decision to close its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patrons miss the physical library for various programs and resources, but there’s also the social connection.
Howard Fields has been on the library staff for many years. He greets many patrons at the circulation desk.
“There’s people who just come in during the week just to talk to him,” Holifield said.
Though the library isn’t open for now, Holifield and her staff are doing their best to provide services — including that social interaction.
Fields spent time one day last week calling various regulars to check in on them. He conversed with about 30 patrons and will continue with the periodical calls as the pandemic continues.
“That may be the only time they are able to converse with another human being,” Holifield said. “It’s not just an age thing. It’s all ages.”
Fields said the response to the calls have been positive.
“The majority of the people I talked to last week said something similar to, ‘thank you for thinking of us,’ that type of a comment,” Fields said.
People are focused on washing their hands and using hand sanitizer and keeping their social distance, but Holifield said that sometime people can forget about “health” beyond physical health.
“I think that definitely goes to my social work roots and anytime you have crisis management, it is what some people may think as small touch points, but really those are the things that make the biggest difference,” Holfield said. “Making a phone call or meeting with people at a coffee shop, but obviously in this case we have to do it by phone or other means.
“We couldn’t do it in person.”
Fields, who originally is from southwest Missouri and graduated from the University of Missouri in Columbia, started out volunteering at the library for three years during his retirement days before joining the library staff.
He’s done that for 14 years.
He retired in 1994 from an oil field manufacturing company in Houston before eventually moving with his wife back to the Midwest.
“Most of my adult life I had though I would just play golf all day during retirement, but once I got into that, My game just didn’t justify playing every day,” Fields said with a laugh.
The library is adding more and more virtual opportunities for patrons during the pandemic, such as book clubs and tech help times.
Virtual story times and tutoring offerings also are in the works as the library expands its “virtual” capabilities.
Fields commended Holifield for “thinking outside of the box during this stressful time and coming up with new ideas.”
To learn more about library programs during the pandemic, visit the library’s Facebook page or tonganoxielibrary.org.