This library system in Australia had the most wholesome plan to care for its elderly members during coronavirus lockdown
In March, the coronavirus pandemic was spreading around the globe and many countries were entering lockdowns to help flatten the curve of the disease. People all over the world suddenly found themselves unable to go out to eat, go shopping, travel, or access certain essential services. But when Melbourne, Australia’s Yarra Plenty regional libraries were shut down in March, all the staff were sent home with a phone and a new project.
“One of the hardest things about lockdown was people being separated from their community,” Yarra Plenty’s executive manager of public participation, Lisa Dempster, told The Guardian. “The library is often a hub for the community, and we identified the most vulnerable cohort of our community would be the elderly.”
After they closed in March, staff from Melbourne’s Yarra Plenty libraries pulled from their database the phone numbers of every library member over the age of 70 – 16,000 records — and started calling those members to say hi and see if they needed anything https://t.co/vwAFUFQsSA
— Stephanie H Convery (@gingerandhoney) August 12, 2020
And so library staff started going through their database of community members to find every, single one who was over 70 years old, and then used their work-issued phones to start calling those seniors to check in. In total, there were more than 8,000 elderly members whom library staff called to check in during lockdown. The 16,000 call total, which the author of the piece later corrected, is because they called all 8,000 elderly members at the start of lockdown and are now calling them again. Our entire hearts.
Fam @YarraPlentyLib got in touch to say they’d given me slightly jumbled numbers – they have 8000 elderly members, they called them all in the first lockdown and are calling them all again now – so they’re making 16,000 calls. I’m correcting the piece. Either way, bloody legends.— Stephanie H Convery (@gingerandhoney) August 12, 2020
“We called them to say hi, see how they were doing, and then see if there was anything they needed help with, such as access to services, counselling support, tech help, that kind of thing. We would then refer them to a service that would help them,” Dempster explained. “What we’ve found mostly is that people are really up for the chat and love getting that call from the librarian. Some calls go for five minutes and some go for half an hour or more.”
Of course, this news was met with all kinds of joy on Twitter.
You wonderful people.— Doreen Blyth (@doreen_blyth) August 12, 2020
Oh this is fantastic ❤️— Lily Mae Martin (@LilyMaeMartin1) August 12, 2020
That is so lovely,@YarraPlentyLib— Katherine Seaton (@maths_kath) August 12, 2020
Thanks for writing this story about public libraries and showcasing the incredible initiatives happening across Victoria 🙂— Monash Libraries (@MonashLibraries) August 12, 2020
These “caring calls” are only one of many ways libraries in Australia are creatively taking care of their communities during the pandemic. Another library mailed books to its members, while yet another started including book deliveries with Meals on Wheels. Libraries all over the country have been boosting their digital offerings and forgiving fines to help their members make it through the pandemic.
It’s such an incredible example of kindness and empathy, and it should be an example to all of us here in the U.S., where many people are fighting tooth and nail just to not have to wear masks in public, a very simple act that protects all the people they come into contact with. Getting through this pandemic is going to require us to look out for each other, and it’s time Americans started learning that.