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Battling 'brain fog' as pandemic sees one-year anniversary

Kolleen Taylor
Director, Bertha Bartlett Public Library
Bertha Bartlett Public Library is located at 503 Broad St., Story City.

Mistakes are a part of living and we understand that no one is perfect. But all of us here at the library have noticed a reduction in our accuracy, from shelving mistakes, inability to see a book on the shelf in the correct place, forgetting Zoom meetings, forgetting how to do different steps in our normal procedures. We’re calling it brain fog, and it is our unprofessional opinion that it has resulted from the reduced stimulation of our cerebral cortex, caught in the same patterns for an entire year even though we have been able to go to work and have some interaction with others. It still isn’t the same.

I’ve been hearing the same thing from others: on Facebook, over Zoom meetings, in e-mails and phone calls. I’ve seen it in a lack of response to questions. It’s a mental breakdown of sorts that is going to take some effort to restore.

Prior to the pandemic, our world was a complex mechanism of stimulation; an overabundance of meetings, athletics, activities and social obligations. Finding time to relax with a book, a movie or a puzzle was limited to time “between.” It’s now been nearly a year of frightful news of the pandemic, cautioning us to disengage, cover-up, cancel and prohibit. It’s a year of mental exhaustion, devoid of almost anything but bad news.

But we have been plugging along here at the library, trying to keep those stimulations available through our many resources, even though many require access to the Internet. For those without access at home, our library has been a lifeline allowing a small level of communication. We understood that everyone does not have a home office, a copier or printer, fax machine or smart phones to accomplish all the things we have been told to do online. We knew that even with some of that equipment, our staff was needed to help circumvent problems, help correct mistakes and talk through solutions to keep many of our community connected and moving forward. With tax season upon us, our ability to locate and print tax forms for our patrons has made our daily trek to work even more important.

We don’t expect masks to disappear any time soon. We will continue to keep our sanitizers out for continued use, we will continue to clean and quarantine items, we will continue to sanitize every computer after it is used. We will be slowly offering some of the items we had shelved for the past year, from children’s puzzles to puppets.  And we expect our patrons and staff to stay home when they are feeling ill, a habit we all should follow.

We are hopeful that by summer, we will have a hybrid version of summer activities that will allow all ages to re-engage more with our library. We are starting to plan the summer reading program for 2021 using some of the concepts from last summer, hoping we can provide some tools to re-socialize our children with our library staff. We have missed them, and the relationships we build through the school years often establishes habits for the rest of their lives. Many families learn the financial savings to using the library as opposed to purchasing all their books and other materials. Those precious dollars in savings can be redirected for other needed expenses.

We hope our families will plan to participate in this summers’ reading program and plan to reacquaint themselves with the many facets of our library. We are working hard to achieve a balance to provide the best possible service to our community in 2021!

Kolleen Taylor is the director of the Bertha Bartlett Public Library, which is located at 503 Broad St., Story City.