On Flexibility

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On Flexibility


A public librarian shares her story of learning to host online book clubs, dealing with internet issues and how remaining flexible is the key to it all.


Nancy Lingle


Community Member


Davidson, North Carolina

Date Created


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The public library in Davidson closed at 5:00 pm on March 17th. When the announcement of our impending closure was made, our loyal Davidson customers came through the library like a swarm of locusts, gobbling up bags of books, movies, music and more. We answered the endlessly ringing phone, checked in returns at an unheard of pace, and asked everyone to maintain social distancing as we headed into the unknown. It was chaos, and then total silence. We locked the doors and left. We haven't been back since.

In the days and weeks that followed, life became weird. We stayed home, washed our hands and made masks. We called and texted with our family and friends. We learned Zoom. We watched the morning news, the evening news, the news feed on our phones and binge watched Netflix, all in our yoga pants. And we waited.

As a librarian and information professional, I am not used to such quiet days (although I am known to revel in them). Weeks later, in the midst of the now too long quiet of my non-existent work life, came an interesting, welcome email, like a daffodil poking up through the ground that is still frozen in winter. The library was beginning to offer story times online. To no one's surprise, they became a big hit. But what about something for adults? Virtual book clubs were the answer. While the Town of Davidson has at least 36 registered book clubs, some dating back before 1900, people are always looking for more. At the Davidson Public Library we usually host five adult book clubs per month. I reached out to our wonderful volunteers. Three of our five were willing to come back online.

In my comfy yoga pants I emailed our groups. I posted the virtual version of our book clubs on the library website. I learned Jitsi, the platform the library was using to offer programming, and I waited.

On the day of the first virtual book club I walked my dogs, put on some blush, lipstick and a pretty scarf (something I hadn't done in weeks) and logged into my computer at home. It was 10:45 am and the book club was scheduled for 12:00 noon. Nineteen people has signed up. I was nervous and excited, wondering what this new experience would be like. I opened my browser and couldn't connect. My internet was down! It had been fine the whole morning! A frantic call to our service provided gave me the dreaded "service outage in your area" message. Heart pounding, I grabbed my laptop, my car keys, my book, my notes, my coffee in an actual mug because who knew where the travel mugs were anymore, and headed out the door to.... the parking lot of the public library where the WiFi was still on.

I sat scrunched up in my car on this cold, wet day, with my stuff spread out on the other seat and the floor, and logged in. There on my screen in my Jitsi room were the smiling faces of my History and Historical Fiction Book Club. Before this moment I had thought I was doing OK. I was relishing the quiet of home, the less frantic pace, the joy of staying up late. But I had not realized until this moment how much I had missed these wonderful, smart, courageous people. My heart sang. We spent a joyous hour catching up on how we were doing, learning the ins and outs of virtual meetings, discussing the finer points of our book, "Pope Joan", but mostly just being really happy to be together - even virtually - again.

Our meeting finished, I closed up my laptop and gathered my stuff, feeling grateful for a flexible library system that encouraged us to take our programming online, for flexible library customers who were willing to try new ways of staying in touch, and yes - grateful for my flexible yoga pants that let me stay comfortably all scrunched up in my car while running the virtual book club. Once the internet came back at home, I ordered two more pairs. Let's hear it for flexibility.


lingle.nancy, “On Flexibility,” (Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson & Lake Norman Stories, accessed December 4, 2020, https://davidsonlibraryexhibits.net/covid-19/items/show/27.