While many think first of borrowing books when they think of libraries, Regina Public Library's central branch has become an especially essential hub for downtown residents during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the branch's executive director says.
Beyond lending books, the library is also providing vital services, ranging from printing documents to helping people arrange to get vaccines, says Amber Christensen.
Technological services offered at the library have been in high demand over the past 18 months, she says.
That includes services like printing out job applications and government forms or providing the use of public phones.
"Right now what we're doing a lot of is helping people to set up their MySaskHealth accounts," Christensen said in an interview with CBC Radio's Morning Edition.
"Lots of older adults may not even have the email address that you need to sign up for your eHealth account. So we're taking people all the way through that process."
The library has also worked with the Saskatchewan Health Authority to help people get their COVID-19 vaccines, including hosting pop-up clinics at some branches.
People are also looking for practical help, like advice on how to connect with resources and services.
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Back when libraries had to close due to the pandemic, shelters and businesses were adapting their own services. So librarians took it upon themselves to make sure the changing information was communicated with the public, according to Christensen.
"We created a really great community resource poster, large scale — because at that time we had to be closed, put it on our front window, and a curbside phone was outside," she said.
"People could phone and locate the services they needed. That was always updated based on what was happening in the city."
As for what it means for people who work at the library to be at the heart of these connections, Christensen said that people who work at libraries are helpers.
"[That's] why I've chosen to pursue public libraries for the last 15 plus years, is that community engagement piece, with people from all different kinds of backgrounds," she said.
Christensen said the work has been rewarding for staff, especially when people go out of their way to drop off things like flowers and thank you notes.