Paying homage to public libraries for helping us get through worst of pandemic
As stores and offices around the area shut down during Illinois’ shelter-in-place order, one building in my small suburban town remained busy: the library.
Patrons couldn’t enter the building, but our library staff made sure all of the residents were still being served. They moved their wi-fi router so kids doing e-learning and people looking for jobs could access the internet from the parking lot. They set up a makeshift food pantry on the front sidewalk. They organized curbside delivery and stepped up digital book offerings. They moved story time and yoga classes online.
This is just a small sample of how libraries around Chicagoland have served their communities during the pandemic. As we saw here in Woodstock, a well-run library provides resources people need to manage a crisis in the short term. Perhaps more importantly, though, a library creates the kind of connections in a community that keep it healthy and vibrant in the long term.
Sociologist Eric Klinenberg has called this “social infrastructure” — public and private institutions that foster a sense of community. His research has shown that strong social infrastructure creates communities that are socially and economically vibrant, with citizens who are active and engaged. Those communities also tend to be safer, healthier, and more resilient in disasters.
Our libraries are an investment in community, in the individuals who live there and the social fabric that holds them together. They are essential services. We need them to survive and thrive.
The Woodstock library and hundreds of others in the region have proven during this pandemic that social infrastructure is a sound investment.
Jessica Campbell, Woodstock
Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.