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Honoring Library Workers On A Day Dedicated to Them

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By Jane Billinger, Department of Research and Collective Bargaining Services ·

Tuesday was National Library Workers Day, and while almost every library building is closed or providing reduced services due to the COVID-19 outbreak, AFSCME still honors the library workers for stepping up and finding new ways to meet their community’s needs.

Below are just a few examples of how AFSCME library workers are adjusting to the new reality of social distancing.

The Seattle Public Library, represented by AFSCME Local 2083 (Council 2) in Washington state, recognized quickly the effects social distancing would have on local small businesses and nonprofits. Seattle Public Library workers are offering one-on-one appointments with library staff to find resources that could help the local economy weather the crisis. Additionally, the library worked with several community partners to provide Wi-Fi hot spots to communities living with no or limited internet access, allowing more communities to have access to the library’s digital resources.

In neighboring King County, the King County Library System, represented by Local 1857 (Council 2), is acknowledging the mental distress many of their patrons are experiencing by offering webinars and discussion spaces for the community to cope. Their community spaces allow for open discussion between seniors, parents and teens so everyone can experience community while social distancing.

Carver County Public Library in Minnesota, represented by Local 2789 (Council 65), is continuing to serve its community by having library workers present over Facebook Live almost every day. Carver County library workers are hosting virtual story time, sharing genealogy tips and tricks, author talks and even research help over Facebook so those at home can still fill their time with fun.

As library patrons are utilizing digital services more than ever before, the need for better digital infrastructure is heightened.

In the $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief package, the so-called CARES Act, Congress allocated $50 million to the Institute of Museum and Library Services to enable libraries and museums to expand digital network access, purchase internet accessible devices and provide technical support services to their communities. While this funding helps, much more will be needed if cities and counties want to maintain library services and staff.

AFSCME is calling on Congress to provide at $700 billion in aid consisting of at least $300 billion in unrestricted aid to rebuild public services such as libraries, and $200 billion each in education and health care funding.

The CARES Act also restricted the use of a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund just for “unbudgeted” pandemic-response costs borne by states and localities, meaning libraries across the nation were left out of much of that relief funding.

AFSCME is asking Congress to repeal that restriction, which would allow state and local governments to plug budget shortfalls and keep libraries, parks, cultural resources and other services funded and accessible to the public.

AFSCME is also requesting at least an additional $200 billion be allocated towards public schools, which would allow school librarians to help provide resources to public school teachers and students as they pursue online and distance learning.

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