BookExpo – Public Libraries and the Pandemic

Libraries had to change fast because of the pandemic. Four librarians discuss how it has changed the way libraries work for their community and how it will change their libraries going forward into the ‘new normal.’

Book Culture Bookspot / Libraries

Because of COVID-19, a lot of events have had to switch online so that people can still enjoy their services. One of these services is BookExpo, which plays a large role in the publishing industry. Traditionally they have authors, booksellers, distributors, librarians,  literary agents, and publishers come together to grow relationships in order to gain business and build a fast paced marketplace of what is trending in books. This morning, May 26, 4 librarians discussed over zoom how their libraries are forever changed due to the pandemic. Here is the need-to-know about the topics they examined and a breakdown of what they explored.


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image via bookexpo


The Librarians that joined:

Lisa Rosenblum from King County Public Library from Issaquah, WA. (KCLS was the busiest library in the United States as of 2010 and still is a large library with considerable attendance.) 

Ramiro Salazar is from San Antonio Public Library in Texas.

David Lankes serves Syracuse University Bird Library.

Kacie Armstrong from Euclid Public Library, Ohio.




The aftermath of quarantine has led to the need for E-Libraries to soar. As much as they can, libraries have been pouring their budget into providing ebooks, podcasts, and audiobooks in order for their patrons to still use their material. This need for the entertainment brought on by libraries has led to a large increase in patronage. Rosenblum from KCLS states that demand e-cards have gone up 300%. This means that many more people are applying to be part of libraries, and more people are willing to switch from print to digital.  Now, because of the pandemic, more people are asking for the services that libraries provide. Armstrong from Euclid Public Library shared that an event where an author or pillar of the community would read a children’s book would attract 25-30 kids, now with online readings 100 kids show up on the live feed to watch. Literacy is still being shared, with e-libraries easy to access thanks to librarians, and events that promote reading have caused a shift. 


image via texas public radio


Looking after our communities

While this boom in e-libraries is exciting and shifts towards the future, a lot of librarians worry for their community. Not all libraries have the resources to explore what kind of e-library they could offer. Members of the community are being left out when moving forward towards the change and librarians are calling out for equity. One of the solutions that these librarians have talked about is broadband. This is a data transmission that can transport signals to many other places. This means that members of the community that don’t have the access to WiFi or other internet necessities while having to social distance can access it through broadband. Broadband could not only help people now during a time when everyone is working at home, but also help with the ultimate shift towards technology that society is making because of the pandemic. Salazar from San Antonio Public Library expressed that now that libraries are being pushed towards this electronic change, they have a duty to stand up for the people being left behind; meaning pushing congress to make WiFi and internet more available and accessible like water and electricity. 

Kacie Armstrong, Librarian at Euclid Public Library also added that the programs that libraries provide are needed more than ever. While they have always offered classes for Workforce development, there is now a larger need for it because of job loss due to COVID-19. Libraries focused on giving these services to members of the community can help make sure people are being lifted up during these hard times.  

Rosenblum points out that patrons that come to the library for safety and a break from their harsh lives now can’t acess the space because of the pandemic. For example, homeless people are left with nowhere to go during a time when all of their safe spaces are closed. This just makes everyone aware that there needs to be a bigger connection with the government so that the libraries can serve everyone.



While the realities of the world right now are dire and complex, librarians are trying to stay positive by moving forward for their communities. They are willing to take advantage of this boom in electronic material to help communities come closer together and to fight for the patrons that need the resources to survive during this societal shift. 

Keep up with everything BookExpo, over on their Facebook page!

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