The Ann Arbor District Library closed even before the statewide shutdown last spring. “We knew we were going to have to close,” says AADL director Josie Parker, “so we wanted to do it on our terms.”

By June, they reopened–for carryout. “We had a backlog of tens of thousands of items to get off the floor and get checked in and get back on shelves,” says Parker. “Once that happened, then we were able to give people the opportunity to request material again.” Staff put books, DVDs, and CDs “in a paper grocery bag out on the vestibule shelves to be picked up.”

Programming, already a huge part of the library’s community role, expanded in the pandemic. “The staff decided to start filming and doing programming online,” says Parker. “YouTube has become a huge part of what we’re doing.”

They miss the days when services were in-person. “We all liked to be in the building, and we’d love the public to be in here with us,” says Parker. “It’s very difficult to be in the building with masks, keeping your distance and no public interface. Honestly, it’s depressing.”

But they carry on. “We are working in teams, so people who are working at a branch don’t work anywhere else in the system at all,” Parker says. “And there are two teams at each branch that do not overlap,” so if someone tests positive, “we do not have to close a building.”

Parker says the library will reopen “by degrees” based on public health guidance. But “we’ll keep some of the services we’ve developed because they’re so well received, like shelf service” for pickup and online children’s programming and book discussions.

Parker wholeheartedly agrees with retiring Downtown Development Authority director Susan Pollay that once the pandemic is over, people will be eager to gather again in person. “When there’s a ‘vaccine, when there’s enough control that we can have programming here, I don’t think there’ll be any hesitation at all,” she says. “We all miss it very much.”