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Things I Never Learned in Library School: Living, and Dying, in a Pandemic

There’s been a lot written about public and school libraries adjusting to these times. You can find articles about curbside service and virtual programming. You can find intense debates about whether or not libraries should be open for browsing. You can find articles that talk about the trials and tribulations of trying to serve the public while also trying to keep the public, and staff, safe during a deadly global pandemic. This isn’t even the first Things I Never Learned in Library School post I’ve written about the pandemic.

But nothing prepared me for the next step: when one of your current or former teens dies or is dying from Covid-19.

I have been doing this long enough that a lot of the teens that I have served are now adults. Many of them are now married and have children of their own. I’ve been doing this for 28 years which means that some of my teens are now in their 40s, like me. I did the math, and this appears to be correct. (I started working with teens in libraries at the age of 20, so I was barely older than some of my first teens.)

This past weekend I learned that one of my former teens has been fighting the Covid virus for more than 20 days and is not expected to survive. When I talked about my feelings about this last night on Twitter, another teen librarian shared that one of their former teens had also died of Covid over the weekend. The teens we helped raise are dying from a disease that many people still insist is just a hoax.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not the first time one of my current or former teens have died. I’ve talked a lot here at TLT about the emotional impact of serving youth and then having them pass away. It’s devastating. It stays with you. But I haven’t seen a lot of discussion about this in terms of the pandemic and I’m here to tell you it’s devastating on a deeper level. It hurts at the very core and adds to the already taxing emotional load of trying to live and work in a deadly global pandemic that is being largely mishandled by people in leadership at every level.

There are currently between 2,500 and 3,000 people dying daily in the United States from Covid-19. Those that do survive often have long term health and financial impacts. 25 million people are now out of work. And our childhood hunger rate, which had gone up to 1 in 8, is now back down to 1 in 5. Here in Texas, we have record breaking lines for our food banks.

Everyone in the United States and around the world is going to have life long repercussions from living through this pandemic, if they are lucky enough to indeed live through it. We are not okay.

I’m sorry I don’t have a better post for you today. Today, I just want to acknowledge our losses. And tell our teens, both current and former, once again that I’m sorry we keep failing them. I don’t know how we heal from this, but if you work in libraries you’re going to want to do a lot of research on trauma informed librarianship.

Stay healthy and safe everyone.

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