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Virtual visits increase for Stanly libraries during pandemic

Demand for the services for the Stanly County changed dramatically in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study released last year by the county.

Because of the pandemic, many of the library’s functions moved to a virtual platform, including last year’s summer reading program. Weekly reading groups were also suspended due to the restrictions on indoor gatherings issued by Gov. Roy Cooper.

While the number of monthly library-goers was reduced by more than 50 percent from June and July of 2019 to the same months in 2020 (21,035 to 8,990), the number of virtual visits rose (4,166 to 4,675).

The libraries of Stanly also circulated fewer materials but still managed to move 24,151 in materials in the two months, down from 32,740 the past year.

“We’ve been very pleased that we were able to reopen after only being closed for about six weeks and that so many of our regulars have stopped by to check out materials,” said Melanie Hollis, director of Stanly County Public Library. “Having online resources available during our closure was a godsend so people could continue reading during the lockdown. We know that demand was high and wait times were long for ebooks so we have recently reallocated several thousand dollars to our budget to purchase more copies of popular titles so wait times are not as long.”

Holles said the library continues to be busy but still has the capacity to serve more patrons. The number of people in the buildings are being limited, but she said there has not been a need for waiting lines outside.

Circulation for the last five months is around 4,000 below normal monthly numbers which Holles said “can probably be accounted for the fact that we are not open evenings or on Saturday at the moment. The number of people coming into the libraries is much lower than normal, mostly because we don’t have any library programs or community meetings happening.”

Programs which have been having amazing results, she said, have been online virtual tours.

“The staff in all of the locations have maintained excellent attitudes during this time, so between their great attitudes and hard work going above and beyond recommended safety precautions, I think the public feels safe using the facilities.”

She added the staff and herself are “anxious to get back to full operating hours and have our story time, books clubs and craft groups back.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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