The 1918 Quarantine and Now
While the library staff prepared for re-opening after its COVID-19 quarantine, we uncovered stored secretarial reports (below) of the Allentown Free Library that were recorded between October and December 1918.
These reflect the period during and directly after the influenza quarantine a century ago. We compared them to the library’s activities during the COVID-19 quarantine of early 2020 and the months after we re-opened.
October 1918/April-May 2020
In 2020 the library closed on March 14th and remained so for three months, reopening on June 15th.
Just like the librarians in 1918, we remained very busy during this time. However, unlike the librarians a century ago, we had the benefit of the internet to remain in contact with our community.
Our librarians and staff kept busy creating content such as virtual programming, activities, and videos as well as shared important information on our website and Facebook page. During quarantine, our website had over 30,000 visitors and our Facebook page had more than 56,000 visits.
Access to our online resources also rose by over 60% from the previous year. And let’s not forget about books (we are a library after all)! Thanks to Overdrive, our ebook and audiobook provider, our patrons were able to check out over 10,000 books from the safety of their own homes.
We extended material due dates so that patrons didn’t need to worry about returning items during stay-at-home recommendations. Because we allowed online registrations for new library cards during the time the building was closed, we registered over 200 new patrons!
November 1918/June 2020
The library reopened at a limited capacity (pick up window only) on June 15th, 2020.
In anticipation of our reopening, patrons began to place books on hold online. Between June 2nd, when we began pulling reserved materials, and our drive up window opening 13 days later, 1,060 items were checked out! June 15th also saw the most visits to our website this year (3,000).
Camp Crane is mentioned here. This was an Army Ambulance Service training camp that was temporarily created at the Allentown Fairgrounds during WWI. The library provided cards and books to the officers and troops being trained there (more on this to come).
December 1918/July-August 2020
As of this post (August 2020), neither the city of Allentown nor your public library are open without restrictions, so there is not a flood of people coming in. Given CDC guidance this is probably the best current scenario for maintaining distancing and achieving good health outcomes for both the librarians and the patrons who rely on us.
However, we have received many messages about how we were missed and people have expressed their happiness that we’re back. Thanks for the love. We hope we can all meet in the library in the near future : )