Fulton County Libraries closed their doors to the public as shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic took place, but they haven’t stopped being a community resource. The system continues to offer virtual classes, storytimes, lectures and other events to the public in addition to their selection of e-books available for checkout.
“City Lights” host Lois Reitzes spoke with Victor Simmons, director of the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, as well as Claudia Strange, public relations and marketing manager for the library system, about how they’re operating during the pandemic and amid nationwide protests.
“One of the things that we immediately started doing was brainstorming among all of our staff about what kind of programs we can provide through our Facebook page, through Instagram and YouTube with whatever our folks have at home,” Strange said.
Programs offered by the library system include storytimes featuring special guests –like members of the Atlanta Opera and Stacey Abrams–language learning, book clubs and fitness classes.
“One of our librarians who is one of the fitness instructors may show you how to do some basic, very basic weight training, but with stuff that you might have around the house,” said Strange. “If you don’t have weights at home, you can use a gallon jug of milk.”
The Auburn Avenue Research Library is hosting a weekly Africana storytime for kids, in addition to rebroadcasting past lectures that focus on topics such as policing Black communities in the United States.
Simmons said the library has been addressing issues that impact Black Americans since it opened in 1994.
“What we are is an institution of history, and this is nothing new. These things have been happening for years,” said Simmons.
In addition to programming, the Auburn Avenue Research Library has many resources available online.
“There’s an area that has our finding aids,” said Simmons. “In there, you’ll be able to see all of the items that we have in our possession, all of the items that are digitized that are within our collection.”
Despite the digital resources available, Strange said that it’s important for the libraries to have a physical location to build community, and that’s what staff is most looking forward to getting back to.
“It’s also a place where they can get together with community members and just exchange ideas or even pleasantries. I think in the world where we’re all so engrossed in our phones, and now in Zoom meetings and computers and non-stop technology, I think that thing will never be able to be replaced.”