A YEAR OF WONDER—June, 2021
Several years ago, I read the Geraldine Brooks book by the above title, A Year of Wonders: A Journal of the Plague Year. The book itself focuses on a small village in England that finds itself infested with the bubonic plague of 1666. The impulse, of course is to run, but instead the village very woke minister convinces his flock that they could help mitigate the spread by hunkering down and trying to contain the plague to their village. It is a rough year, filled with fear, illness, death, arguing and people breaking the rules. But there is an ending.
Fast forward 354 years later. History is repeating itself. Over the past year during the Covid-19 pandemic, we feared. We grieved. We fought. We held our breath as we bet on science to come up with a treatment, a vaccine or something. We turned our everyday lives on their heads as we tried to function normally in a totally abnormal way.
Pennsylvania Governor Wolf will be lifting the mask mandate on June 28 as will the library. The coronavirus cases are down. Vaccines are now available. It’s time to come out of our sleepy little cocoon and resume our normal lives.
But it’s impossible to go through a catastrophic event like a pandemic without changing. The library has changed as well. We learned the value and convenience of virtual programming and the ability to reach wider audiences. We coached a number of patrons who never touched an e-reader through the process and opened up doors to an entirely new way of reading filled with variety and convenience. But above all, we learned the value of community and the importance of our link in that chain. Our services have been called a “lifeline” and a “respite” for those isolated from family and friends. While we stayed in touch with smiles behind masks during curbside deliveries and telephone conversations, it is an absolute pleasure for us to actually “see” our patrons and families coming into the building again. Coming back to a place where everyone really does know your name.
This is one more chapter in our library’s history. I’ve been keeping a file—a primer, if you will—for the next librarian that needs to pilot this ship through another crisis. A documentation of how we functioned during this time that will probably stay safely tucked away until the library’s bicentennial (or, heaven forbid, the next pandemic!). Amid all the signs and invoices for masks, hand sanitizer and plexiglass, it is my hope that the future will see a proud heart that kept beating strong and did its part to keep the community connected during this wild and crazy time.