By MARINA WATERS
Washington County’s public libraries in Gray and Jonesborough have closed due to the COVID-19 virus crisis, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stop lending a hand to the public.
“We felt it was in the best interest for the public and our employees to go ahead and close,” Library Director Richard Griffin said, “People can’t check out any of our physical books, but we have our online services for audio books, e-books, magazines, videos, those kind of things can be downloaded for patrons at home.”
Griffin also said students who are out of school for the time being could use the Tennessee Electronic Library, which is an electronic resource that includes resources for different kinds of education such as test prep, career help and genealogy resources.
“Of course for students the biggest one is TEL,” Griffin said. “I’ve lost track of how many databases are actually in that — everything from medical field people to business and the basic students in the college can use that. There are practice tests from most professional organizations in there including the military. That is great for students.”
As for parents and adults, Griffin said the library is currently working to remain a resource for education and entertainment purposes, whether that’s posting the link to a virtual tour of The Palace of Versailles or an author’s online reading video.
“We’re working really hard to look for other entertainment and educational resources out there. We’re posting our services to our doors and on facebook and instagram,” Griffin said. “There are a lot of outside organizations that are making their materials available to the public for free. There’s so much stuff out there that is available, we are trying to make sure people out there can access this information and see those types of things. If people want to look at our facebook pages, we are putting a lot of information out there on it.”
The library also aims to provide technology resources for local citizens as well. Though the library’s computers are currently unavailable due to the shut down, Griffin said, as always, the library offers free WiFi anytime in its parking lot.
“Unfortunately there is a gap in the community,” Griffin said. “There are people who have internet and computers at home and there is a fair number of people who unfortunately do not. So we work really hard to make sure that we also service the folks who don’t have internet by providing decent books and story time and those sort of things. Unfortunately, without being able to get to some of that, some of the folks without internet are going to be kind of limited.
“The internet extends to the parking lot at both of the libraries, so if you need service, you can always park in my parking lot and use your smartphone, laptop, or tablet in your car in the parking lot.”
The library typically fills out its calendar this time of year with planned story times, events and reading programs, but due to recent circumstances, the library is hoping to host its summer reading events this summer.
Looking ahead, Griffin also said his goal for the future is to create a bookmobile, similar to that of the Washington County School System. The schools’ book bus was created with help from the boy scouts and the local libraries.
“I would love to have a bookmobile,” Griffin said. “Transportation is a problem in this area. A lot of people can’t make it to the library. We would love to take library services to some of the places people congregate. We could pull up to something like an apartment complex and let kids check out books right there. And there are a lot of things we could do with technology for sure.”
Griffin said him and his team, even in recent circumstances, are ready and willing to help be a guiding force for those stuck at home. He also said he felt it was important that the community utilize its public libraries because they belong to the people and offer various resources and entertainment.
“Your tax dollars pay for this and if you don’t come use it you’re kind of wasting your tax dollars,” Griffin said. “We work very hard to be part of the community and to provide things people have requested. If people want us to do something, there are ways to ask us to do that and we can see if we can do whatever it is. My staff is here if the public has questions. We can try to help.”
To stay up to date on what’s going on at the library, go to https://www.wclibrarytn.com/ or visit https://www.facebook.com/wcpltnmain/.