Throughout the pandemic, we at the libraries have often cited the importance of aligning with other county departments in the way we handle COVID restrictions for the public and our employees. The feedback we receive from our patrons and supporters sometimes demonstrates confusion; why would we follow the county? We’re the library!
The public bewilderment is understandable. Library buildings are separated from other county offices. We don’t have publicly visible ties to other county departments, unless you stop to consider the fact that we’re tax-supported. We look like an independent entity. Yet, while there are some 501(c)(3) libraries out there, most (like ours) are considered a public service department of local government.
That’s worked out wonderfully for us at Botetourt County Libraries.
Our library is not “an island entire of itself” (to quote the 17th century poet John Donne). The fact is, we couldn’t provide the services we do without the generous support of other county departments and employees. It takes a team effort.
Let’s say you visit one of our library branches, looking for some books and movies for the weekend. You walk into a well-lit building in good repair (thanks to county maintenance) and past an AED device that you hope no one will need to use (but it’s there if we need it, thanks to Fire &EMS.)
You use a public computer station (provided and supported by Technology Services) to look up some titles you want. You’re able to browse safely and without harassment from other patrons (thanks to clear behavioral policies approved by county administration with enforcement by the Sheriff’s Department as needed).
By the time you’re done searching and browsing, you have an armload of books and movies to check out. Each item was paid for by a credit card (set up by Purchasing), an invoice (processed by Finance), or by a generous community member’s donation (received by the Treasury). Unbeknownst to most of us, the library was able to purchase some of those extra books due to a county revenue increase, made possible by the arrival of new businesses in Botetourt (recruited by Economic Development).
The library staff member (hired by Human Resources) hands you a brochure listing upcoming events at the library. You glance through as the staff member checks out your books, and you notice a chair yoga class (courtesy of Parks and Recreation), a presentation on becoming a foster parent (arranged by the Department of Social Services), and a workshop on protecting yourself from scams (presented by the Commonwealth’s Attorney).
You’re also intrigued by a community town hall (hosted by Community Development). You can’t attend, but you’ll fill out the survey (designed by Communications) so your voice will be heard. The library is important to you, and you want to encourage its continued support (by the Board of Supervisors).
We could go on. The employees in other county departments generously lend their expertise and resources to make your library experience better. We’re incredibly grateful to have these amazing people in our corner.
Botetourt Public Libraries