MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Staying indoors in public spaces is something most people tried to avoid in 2020.  Nowhere is that more evident than the public library. The Mobile Public Library system has had to adapt just to remind people they’re still here. One of the biggest changes in 2020 in the library system was circulation.  From the fiscal year 2019 to 2020 they noted a more than 25% drop in items checked out, visitors were down more than half.  

Circulation stats

“Our doors are open we would love to see you, we have practices to help keep your health in mind,” said Valerie Longa with Mobile Public Library. In 2020 there was a large drop in checkouts of physical items like books and DVDs but a big increase in digital items through things like their mobile app. Libraries continue to offer the same services in different ways, like virtual book clubs and programs.

“One of the ways we’ve done that is through our virtual programming our staff has stepped up to that challenge, and in some ways that give us access to people in some areas we would not normally see,” said Longa. Between employment services, books, and media, the library has a lot of options for people looking for enrichment.

“You can better your life whether you’re trying to learn a new skill or attend a program where you may meet people you wouldn’t know otherwise,” said Longa. They’ve also started offering book bundles–pre-selected children’s books packages parents can grab and go and limited the time people can spend inside to try and keep patrons safer.

The library system sent a news release in late 2020 outlining more of their pandemic adaptations:

News release:

Mobile, Alabama: Now more than ever, we are all examining how to remain relevant in a
changing world, and the Mobile Public Library (MPL) has stepped up to deliver its
services to the citizens of Mobile County during the pandemic. Creating safe access to
all of MPL’s resources has been a priority while developing new offerings to meet the
public wherever they are.

MPL wants residents to know library doors are open for quick In & Out service; visitors
are welcome for up to a one hour time period. Mask-wearing and social distancing are
enforced. For those who prefer not to visit indoors, many library locations are offering
curbside service. Grab & Go craft bags are available for children, plus children’s Book
Bundles may be requested where library staff will select 10 books to conveniently be
picked up at circulation desks or curbside.

Programming has gone from large in-person indoor events pre-COVID to being
available virtually or outdoors. Staff rose to the challenge of connecting to patrons
through digital content on a variety of platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Zoom.
A few regular programs to view include Tea & New Book Tuesday, Cooking with
Francois, Storytimes, STEM activities and more. As the library goes through the phases
of safely reopening, outdoor programming such as Storytime on the Patio and Morning
Under the Oaks has been offered at West Regional Library and Ben May Main Library.
The library’s online event calendar is a great way to stay informed about upcoming

In these challenging economic times, the library wants to remind the public about their
career services for job seekers. The Ben May Main Library is home to the Connection
Center which specializes in resources for businesses and those looking for career
opportunities. Computers can be reserved by appointment for 1-hour visits for job
searching, resume preparation, and applying for jobs. Also, scanning, faxing, and
printing of documents is available. Many virtual services are provided as well, and
librarians can be contacted via phone or email to make patrons aware of how to access
these offerings.

Another way the library is meeting people where they are is through the Bookmobile.
Weekly routes are resuming with various stops all over the county. In place of patrons
boarding the bus, Bookmobile staff set up a table outside. Staff will pull an author or title
at a patron’s request. In addition to residents being able to acquire a library card on the
spot, visitors can request specific materials to be brought next time, arrange for pick up
of items at a library location and return library materials. Also, the Bookmobile makes
regular stops at area nursing homes, reaching isolated seniors in the community.
Nursing home residents’ book requests can be dropped off at the front desk which
accomplishes no-contact delivery to this vulnerable population.

As we joyfully say goodbye to 2020 and welcome in the new year, MPL wants to help
Mobilians start 2021 off in the right direction. While many other things remain
unavailable during the pandemic, MPL is a beacon of reliable information, education
and entertainment for the entire community. For more information, please visit us online
at or call (251) 340-1458.