March 17, 2020
Earlier today in conversation with a priestly friend, she mentioned that she and some of her fellow clergy were keeping “Corona Diaries” to document their respective organization’s practices in the wake of the current pandemic, to monitor what worked and what doesn’t. As someone who kept a journal regularly from 1996 to 2009 or so, and as a historian, this idea appealed to me. I thought I might keep an intermittent log here to look back on in a few years and remember how things were.
Image taken from Bing’s COVID Tracker, 3/17/2020
On Friday afternoon, just before lunch, the State of Alabama confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the state, from a civilian working on behalf of the military who had recently returned. The entire atmosphere changed within an hour, as organizations began implementing pandemic response plans: schools and churches suspended activity for the next three weeks, the Selma Pilgrimage (a tour of historic homes that takes place in the spring) was rescheduled for late April, etc. Pandemonium erupted at the local Wal-Mart, which is the main source for most consumer goods within Selma, as people went after the toilet paper (??) and the medicinal alcohol. The library remained open throughout the day, as well as Saturday. Following Governor Kay Ivey’s declaration of a State of Emergency, however, the Library put its own plan into effect. Until April 6th, the library building would be closed to the public; staff would remain inside to serve the public as much as possible under the circumstances.
What that’s to look like is still being determined. Yesterday, we devoted ourselves to a deep cleaning of the library. Not a light switch, not a pencil, not an elevator button went un-cloroxed. We also answered phones and tried to keep the public informed. As I’ve recently taken over the responsibilities of a colleague who had to abruptly retire following some medical issues, I have an entire office of books and documents to examine, sort, etc. Today, however, I’ve mostly been kept running – literally – through our attempt at offering curbside service. As we’re the main source of scanning, copying, and faxing in our community, we’ve been directing people to come to one of our exits, meeting them down there, accepting their paperwork, then running back inside to process it to meet their needs. We’re following hygienic procedures, of course: putting on latex gloves prior to handling outside documents, and washing our hands on re-entry into the library. Needless to say, we are all getting our exercise!
So far I haven’t heard of any serious problems as a result of the panic; Winn-Dixie was perfectly normal on Friday night when I picked up some drinks and chips for a games night party, and on Sunday when I visited Wal-Mart I noticed lean-looking shelves but no destitution. Lean-looking shelves aren’t that uncommon at the local Walmart, so nothing out of the ordinary there. Personal-wise, I have plenty of books to occupy myself with, and have started playing a new-to-me game called 9-1-1 Operator. The player takes phone calls and dispatches a limited number of police cars, fire engines, and ambulances to deal with a much larger number of incidents and emergencies. Some incidents merely appear on the map, but others are actual phone calls where information has to be interviewed-out of the caller, or picked up from background information. One ‘prank call’ is actually someone calling the police while pretending to place a pizza delivery order, for instance. There’s something therapeutic about responding to crises in the wake of one — although, when I had five fires in Albuquerque and only two engines to address them, I didn’t feel very relaxed! The Breaking Bad reference amused me to no end, though.
Anyway! I hope everyone stays safe. I’m still reading, so there will be reviews coming out soon.
Cleaning a library sounds like a big undertaking. Did you have to wipe down materials, too? Our library has said they’re looking into how/if to operate… so far, they’ve completely shut down on-location services and are telling everyone to “hold onto your books!”
We wiped down books which were on display that might have been touched recently, and we also lightly cleaned EVERY book with a spine facing the public. Ours is a fairly big campus, too, especially for a town of 18K — two stories occupying half a city block.
BTW, I enjoyed the Youtube livestream last night! Since my book club can’t meet for the foreseeable future, it’s nice to tele-hang out with people talking about lit. 🙂
Oh, and we’re being lenient about books and fines, too — we’re accepting returns via our book return box, and are sanitizing materials as we receive them. But we’ve also been lending. The only thing we can’t do right now is ILL, since so many libraries are closed…one I placed on a history of Central America has officially been registered as “Unfilled” because none of the ILL librarians are at their posts!
Whoa, that is thorough!! That’s wonderful you’re still allowing loans as well. I wish we could do that here, but I suspect even with our many branch locations, there aren’t enough staff to keep up.
Glad you enjoyed the stream, it made a so-so topic really fun having people there. 😀
i carted 4 large boxes of books down to the library only to see the closed sign on the door at the last minute… unwonted exercise carting them back home again… darn…. cleaning a WHOLE LIBRARY sounds like an incredible amount of labor! i’m impressed! and glad i’m not there…
We’ve had 9 confirmed cases in my county so far (out of a population of about 280,000). Working from home the rest of the week and most of next week. After that I’ll be self-isolating with a good book (or 100) for the next year! Now if only I don’t run out of Coke Zero….
Finally, a chance to work on your TBR stack in earnest! 😀
I have a friend who works at our local library (in CA) (plus my daughter volunteers on weekends), and they closed the library to the public on Tuesday, and will remain closed at least for two weeks (but probably more now). And they were doing an extensive cleaning, as well.
I just learned that our governor expects 56% of California’s population to be infected! So there’s that.
You, too! I heard Cali’s governor was considering using the National Guard. Reading history is fun….living through it, not so much!
No wonder that ‘May You Live Through Interesting Times’ is such a strong Curse! Living through “Historical Events” sucks!!
I don’t understand his threats: using martial law and using executive order to take over hotels for the homeless. As far as I know, most businesses are willingly shutting down, and people in general are doing what they need to do to help. No one is looting, protesting, or burning property. I think he’s a bit of a sensationalist, besides other things.
@Anonymous (CK?) Indeed!
@great book study I suspect it’s mostly the sheer amount of pressure around leaders urging them to DO SOMETHING, even when there’s nothing to do. More cynically, crises like this do bring out people’s desires to dominate — I’m reminded of the 1906 Earthquake, when a police chief or someone tried to impose martial order (with themselves as the new boss), but they were pushed back by the civil government, I believe. Unfortunately, in this case it’s the civil government getting aggressive.