Library closed but never stopped meeting public needs

State-wide stay at home order forces the Lawrence Public Library to find other ways to keep community connected

Andrew Phalen



The Lawrence Public Library building has been quiet during closures stemming from the coronavirus pandemic and Gov. Laura Kelly’s stay at home order.

By Olive Harrington, Staff Writer

The Lawrence Public Library isn’t putting a bookmark in its ongoing mission to imagine more, learn, connect, create and grow — even with the building closed.

Gov. Laura Kelly’s stay at home order caused libraries across Kansas to shut down. With this challenge, the Lawrence Public Library worked to bring the library to our screens.

The stay at home order was announced on March 22, taking effect on March 24, leaving the Lawrence Public Library staff in a hurried scramble to piece together a plan for the coming months of building closure.

“By the end of our very first meeting it became [clear that] we have got to stay viable,” said Heather Kearns, marketing coordinator. “We have invested a ton of money and resources into our online experience and this is giving us a huge opportunity to give people things to do while they’re at home.”

Kearns described services the library has available digitally while the building is closed, such as the new and improved website, during an interview with the Lawrence High 21st Century Journalism class on April 13.

On the library’s website you can access the digital library from a special page set up to describe at-home resources. There, you have endless resources and activities to keep you busy during quarantine such as, Zoom book clubs, Zoom storytimes, online skill classes, audiobooks, ebooks, movies and more. All you need is a library card, which you can get help with on the website.

“We took all of our storytimes and decided to start doing storytime live at home, and so we have all of our storytellers with their huge fan groups like going nuts now that they have access to watching Ms. Linda on her actual farm,” Kearns said.

Despite all efforts to seamlessly transfer the Lawrence Public Library experience online, so far nothing can replace the tremendous hold the library has on being a social hub for the community. 

“We believe that the library is a place that has become a community hub more than anything else,” said Kearns “There is a huge social element that we are trying to satisfy right now…we want people to feel that they can rely on the library to answer some of the more critical questions they have right now, but also satisfy some of  their entertainment, educational, and social needs”

Nevertheless the digital library is keeping everyone busy, informed, connected, and a little more stable in times where it is needed more than ever. 

“The silver lining for us was to be able to connect with our community in a way we’ve never done before,” Kearns said.