Our library buildings closed to the public at 6 pm on March 15, 2020. At the time, we were told that the closure would last two weeks. 277 days later, we have yet to reopen the doors. Once we got past the transition to working from home, providing reference assistance remotely, and safely checking books out and in, we set our sights on serving the former users of our Seed Collection and attendees of our monthly Seed Gatherings. To disseminate seeds, we have followed the model of curbside pickup for books. Patrons call or email us in Reference with requests of up to four seeds packets at a time chosen from the Seed Collection Inventory. We pull the packets from the collection, label them with the patron’s name and date, bring them to the hold shelves with the books that are awaiting pickup, and email or call the patron back to let them know they’re ready. While the collection hasn’t gotten as much use during the pandemic as it did when the library was open, those who do use it are delighted to have the option.
As a placeholder for our Seed Gatherings—during which gardening enthusiasts got together to sort and swap seeds for the collection and talk shop—we have created a series of videos called “Garden Buds” under the umbrella of systemwide video programming called APL+ and featured on our homepage. Three episodes have come out so far, on the topics of summer gardening, homemade recycled plant nannies and recipes from the garden, while upcoming episodes will tackle growing from cuttings, winter gardening, foraging in Austin, and more. So far, viewership is modest, but it’s worth it to keep in touch with our gardening buddies while we are physically apart, and the videos and accompanying PDFs can be readily reused seasonally and in multiple contexts. All episodes and related resources are available in our Green Gang & Garden Buds Information Guide.
Katrin Abel of Austin Public Library