by Mary Holtrop

I work in administration at a public library. My library is in a town of about 18,000 people and we have 25 employees. Since mid-March our library has been closed due to COVID-19.  My responsibilities in the library include finance, human resources and building maintenance and contracts.  When we first began to discuss the COVID-19 virus we talked about what we were going to do in regards to our staff. Of course at the time, we had no idea that almost two months later we would still be closed. We are now beginning to plan re-opening in a phased approached.  During this closure we have paid our employees. The expectation was employees were to work at least half the hours they are normally scheduled to work in a week. This work includes planning and implementing online programs, story times, crafts, collection development, attending training and webinars. I have been in our building working every day Monday-Friday since we closed. Some much needed building projects were addressed. I tackled some long planned records disposal and organizing files.  I have updated essential paper work and created some long needed databases. All this including supervising a window replacement project in one of our buildings, paying bills, paying employees and assisting in updating policies we will have to implement when we open. 

Today the department heads had a long overdue meeting to begin discussing our phased in approach to re-opening the library. This week of each month is my busiest week. I have to coordinate the paying of bills, library reports, paying employees, reconciling bank statements, putting together our board packet and on top of this our fiscal year ended last Thursday. I started suggesting in mid-April to begin these phased in approach conversations, but my suggestions fell on deaf ears. Now here we are, possibly a week away from either accepting checked out materials or doing drive up service, and I am sitting in this 5 hour meeting trying not to be angry, frustrated, or talk myself into walking out of the meeting. 

These are difficult times as we all know and are experiencing. What I am experiencing is nothing compared to those who have lost income and attempting to file unemployment, get loans for their small businesses, or front line health care workers trying to save patients. I am fortunate that I am getting paid, I am healthy and I am still working. But for many reasons I am in search of patience. I have learned that in crises we all respond differently. We all perceive this pandemic in a different manner. We have people who are angry, protesting, and want their lives back. We have businesses who are trying to stay afloat and find innovative ways to sell their goods and services. We have families who are struggling to keep children safe and happy and well educated. We also have couples who are finding their love again. We have dogs who have been walked more in the past two months than in the past year. And it’s so good to see children outside and playing again. The sidewalk chalk art makes me smile.

Yet, during this meeting today I found I was barely holding myself together. I could not understand my feelings of anger and frustration. I sat in this meeting trying to find patience. What was making me feel so anxious, uncomfortable and frustrated? I had my phone and started to search for meditation and phrases that could bring me back. I contributed about how we should all feel fortunate and blessed. But all the while my anxiety level continued to rise. A co-worker saw this and sent me encouraging statements, some pictures of her beautiful children and offered to get me coffee.  I decided during this meeting I needed to do something to turn me around. My goal for the month of April was to do yoga daily. I achieved this goal about 2/3 of the month.  In conversations I have had with others we talk about people we see at the stores and some who are so helpful, friendly and encouraging and others are so angry and rude.  The positive experiences uplift me but the negative bring me down immensely. 

During the meeting today I decided I have to dedicate May to finding patience and serenity. I cannot continue to view the world as I have in the past two months. I want to believe we are better and stronger than this virus. I can try to be part of the solution and I can help myself.  I will let you know in June how I do.