Trumbull library adjusts as readers' habits change amid pandemic

TRUMBULL — As COVID-19 continues to influence virtually every aspect of day-to-day life, Library Director Stefan Lyhne-Nielsen said the town’s reading habits are no exception.

“It’s a lot of the popular authors and pop topics,” Lynhe-Nielsen said. “People are placing a lot of holds on materials. It’s a lot different from when people could come into the library and browse, and maybe something catches their eye versus really not having anything other than the bestsellers list to go by.”

The library, which was closed from March to June, has returned to curbside-only service amid a rise in COVID cases. The library had reopened for limited in-person service in September.

“Obviously, no one is happy about that, but it is in keeping with the policy of keeping our patrons safe,” Lyhne-Nielsen said. “We do look forward to the time when we can open our doors again.”

Since the library reopened for limited in-person browsing, traffic had steadily climbed. The various programs like story hours and game clubs remained online. But even without those people coming in, daily visits were hovering around 100, Lyhne-Niesen said.

“Our business was very good during the time we were open, and even then we were continuing with the curbside service too,” he said.

Still, even with the library once again closed to in-person visits, staff members are planning for the building’s eventual reopening.

“We are anticipating a return to normal programs, hopefully in about six months,” Lyhne-Nielsen said. “We’ll take that time to figure out what we can do, and we’re hoping to have some great programs starting in mid-2021.”

But if the library hopes to start some new community programs in 2021, several initiatives have grown in popularity while the library has been closed, according to Kathleen Fieffe, the adult services librarian.

“We’ve been working with the Community Mindfulness Project on a number of things that have become very popular,” Fieffe said. “Even when the library was completely closed, people were joining these programs.”

Two of the mindfulness programs include a community dial-in guided meditation, where trained facilitators host guided meditation sessions six days a week, and a community social work program where a social work intern is available to the community. The social work program is among the first of its kind, according to Amara Johnson, the librarian who coordinates the program.

“More than ever we have to be prepared to meet the needs of all members of our community,” Johnson said. “We hope our new intern removes barriers and stigma to mental health and social services. When our community hurts, we hurt, and when our community is strong, we are all strong.”

Jennette Vining, a graduate student at Sacred Heart University who also works full-time for the Connecticut Department of Labor, has been assisting Trumbull library patrons since the building reopened, and will continue to do so online.

“She can help with needs such as food, housing, addiction, health services, job loss, places to find employment, and mental health topics,” Johnson said. “What we’ve seen during the pandemic is there is just so much pressure having to keep up with work, online schooling, family needs, food insecurity, and everything else.”

Vining will continue conducting the confidential online sessions through June, Johnson said.

“It’s actually a yearlong program, so even if things start coming back to normal, there will be counseling available during the pandemic’s aftermath,” she said.

deng@trumbulltimes.com