Sara Johnson – Whitby and the pandemic : a virtual archive of people’s experiences



Lit & Phil Lockdown story

By Sara Johnson, one of the supervisors at Whitby Library.

I started working from home on 24th March after we closed following the government ruling – and I missed the library from the very first day!

It was quite challenging working from home when I was used to being in the office, and amongst the bookshelves, and seeing lots of different people every day.

I followed my work day routine for those ‘home office days’ so I didn’t start doing household chores. My breakfast and lunch were my usual for a workday to keep me in the ‘work’ frame of mind. The TV stayed off but I needed the bustle of the library so I had the radio on in the kitchen – Classic FM though, so I wasn’t tempted to sing along or get up and dance (saved that for my day off).

My colleague, line manager and myself kept in contact multiple times across each week by email, phone call or Skype video chat. Between us, we called our vulnerable Home Library customers each week, putting them in touch with CAVCA (who were amazing) or just ringing them for a chat. Some of them were lonely and really missing their fortnightly delivery of books with that chance to see their deliverers and have a chat. We also kept in touch with our wonderful team of volunteers, and one week we had a Skype video virtual coffee morning with lots of them. It was lovely to actually see them, even though it was only on the computer screen.

The main thing we did while working from home was planning future events, both for when the library would be open again as well as for things occurring during lockdown. Working out how to celebrate things whilst in lockdown really exercised the old grey matter; making us think outside the box. We got our volunteers working on this too. Just because the library was closed, it didn’t mean we couldn’t still use their wealth of experience.

We increased the library output on social media using Twitter and Facebook to advertise our many digital offers, we ran a Facebook quiz, added photos of local Memorials to the virtual VE Day celebrations, ran a Blue Plaque trail for Local History Month, and posted beautiful calming quotes and book reviews during Mental Health Awareness Week. Technology really came to the rescue while staying at home.

I missed meeting up with friends and family during lockdown. I taught my Mum to use Skype so I could video chat with her and Dad. My sister and her husband live in Corfu so we don’t see them very often. Due to Covid19, their trip here for Easter was cancelled, so Skype and WhatsApp were an absolute blessing, with photos and videos flying back and forth.

I was very grateful to be able to get out and about on my mountain bike when I couldn’t do anything else outside except my shopping. The weather was so nice and it was difficult to stay indoors, but at least out on the quiet country lanes and bridleways I was still keeping socially distant as I didn’t want that treat taken away from me. I also got back into hobbies that I didn’t seem to have the time for until lockdown. I did lots of cross-stitching so at least I have lots of Christmas presents sorted already!

Sara Johnson