Daphne Shea walked up the Fort Belvoir Library stairs and gladly took the book Katie Buxbaum left on the table. The six-year-old then turned around with Make Way for Ducklings tucked in her hand and headed back toward her father as Buxbaum waved and thanked Daphne for stopping by. Although hidden behind a mask, a smile clearly spread across Buxbaum’s face.

Buxbaum cherishes these types of moments. Under normal circumstances, Buxbaum and other members of the library would interact with kids on a constant basis whether helping them find a book or reading to them during story time. The coronavirus limits interaction now. So Buxbaum and her co-workers take advantage any chance they get to converse with kids when they come to pick up a book at the library’s curbside service.

“We prolong it as long as we can,” said Buxbaum, library technician and youth programming coordinator. “We chat as much as we can.”

With restrictions in place, access to the library is limited to ordering online and picking items up through curbside service. Under ideal conditions, Buxbaum and her fellow library staff members would prefer helping people in person find that right resource.

Buxbaum said one 3-year-old girl grew so concerned she thought the library got rid of the books. The girl’s mother assured her that was not the case and the library was still open, but Buxbaum still found it “heartbreaking.”

“You are the little engine that could until we can,” said Buxbaum.

For now, though, the staff wants to assure people the library is still open for requests.

“We miss the kids,” Buxbaum said. “It’s been different.”

Meeting needs

The library offers three different ways to request items.

The first is for people to use their library accounts to place holds. Then someone from the library staff will call the person once the item is in. The second option is to call in the order, especially if someone needs help finding something specific.

The third option is to email the library directly.

“It’s all working well,” Buxbaum said. “If people are not sure what they are looking for, it’s like being a mystery shopper for people.”

When people ask about using the library computers, the staff recommends they check with county public libraries since they are open for those types of things.

Buxbaum said the library has seen a definite uptick in audio books and other digital offerings. Return policies are the same with people able to renew a maximum of twice unless someone is waiting. The library’s drop box is open 24 hours.

To stay busy, the library staff has done a lot of in-house maintenance and inventoried the entire library.

They also test any new items that come in.

“We play with them just to make sure they are good enough for the kids,” Jill Darcy, another library technician, said with a smile.

The key, right now, is getting word out. Buxbaum said posts on Belvoir’s MWR Facebook page have helped a great deal.

“We have a social media footprint now,” Buxbaum said. “We’ve seen a definite bump.”