It’s Like Starting From Scratch: Robbins Library Underwent Significant Changes Due to Covid-19


Sophie S. , News Editor

Amid the Covid pandemic, the Robbins Library has had to change procedures in order to keep patrons and staff safe. Covid-19 has forced us to rethink the way we run our world, and the library is no exception. 

This pandemic has set in motion some significant changes in the way the library has functioned throughout the past couple months. Linda Dyndiuk, the Head of Adult Services at the Robbins Library in Arlington Center, says that the Robbins has had to “Reinvent our services to be more appropriate for the time we’re in […]. It’s like you’re starting from scratch.” In June, the library reopened for contactless pickup, and recently started transitioning to a new system that allows people to enter the library and pick up books by request, without set pickup times. Lots of reconfiguration and cooperation were needed to get the socially-distant system underway and moving as smoothly as it is now. 

Patrons can request books and pick them up in the library vestibule

The first big change was that patrons are no longer permitted to browse the library’s collections, or pass the boundary in the front lobby. Instead, patrons are encouraged to request books online and over the phone for pickup, or request book grab bags. Dyndiuk reported that once the library reopened, wait lists “skyrocketed” to such great heights, librarians from all departments had to assist the circulation staff in finding materials for people. 

Book grab bags are the second significant change. They allow librarians to pick ten books, movies, or audiobooks, based on your interests, which can be filled out in the form online. People can request books and show up in the lobby once they get an email saying their materials are ready to be picked up. Upon entry of the library, there is a plexiglass partition and a contactless card scanner to protect patrons and staff. Note that only three people can be in the library at once and that masks and social distancing are mandatory.

To protect the health and safety of library patrons, the library has been changing some protocol with media handling. While it is very difficult to sanitize paper, books are quarantined for 3 days after being returned to the library. Additionally, Dynduik told the Insider, “Feel free to quarantine [your books, movies and other media] for a couple days before you get home. We don’t have fines, we’re being very liberal about due dates. […] We just want them back eventually.”

Additionally, in the past, the library was more than a place to borrow books for some. Events were always in-person before the pandemic. People could learn about new topics, participate in clubs, and congregate in the public space. Now however, all events have transitioned to online platforms such as Zoom and Facebook Live. Some clubs that depended upon being in-person have stopped, such as the Cookbook Club which was run by Dyndiuk.

Of a more serious consequence, there are people whose livelihoods depended upon the library’s public spaces. “Vulnerable parties are always hit the hardest,” says Dyndiuk. “People used to sit in the library all day, because I don’t think they had anywhere else to go.” Additionally, many people were dependent upon the library for resources such as wifi and computer access. Recently, to help people regain access to these resources, the library has reached out to community partners with computers and wifi hotspots.

When asked what changes will be permanent, Dyndiuk says she isn’t sure. She told the Insider “It’s so hard to look to the future, when everything is so different right now, I’ve been thinking about that a lot […] I think we’ll always do the grab bags as long as people want it, and some of the items we’ve changed to be requestable, I don’t know, I don’t see us going back.” Once we start opening up again, Dyndiuk says she hopes that the library returns to being a place full of life, where people are excited to go. 


Hoping to request books? 

Call 781-316-3200,

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