So, one of the things that has impacted many of us during COVID-19 is the emergence of the face covering as a necessary part of our “out in public” wardrobe. At this point, these are supposed to be as ubiquitous to our wardrobes as the other standard issue items of clothing, but they are (1) still new to us and (2) annoying. Glasses-steaminess and nose-smooshing are my personal pet peeves... but I deal... and also digress.
As a librarian these have also impacted my work life. One of the least-fun aspects of library management is policy enforcement. Seriously, we do it because it is important to keep a building safe and operating smoothly in a way that is as respectful as possible of all the diverse needs of the array of people who use our spaces (which, in theory at least, is everyone who lives in our communities). But masks. Sigh. So, people don’t want to wear ‘em... AND the rules about them keep changing... AND we are all getting super frustrated. But we definitely are required by law to enforce mask rules, and we are doing that.
AND this is all happening at a weird time when we as human beings are watching science evolve in real time... and for folks who don’t do the process of science every day, it is confusing when science just up and changes its mind. What I’ve found it critical to remember is that these “mind changing” moments don’t mean that science is wrong in general, it means science is doing what science does: working with the best information it has, drawing conclusions, testing those conclusions while continually seeking out new information, and then CHANGING those conclusions when they inevitably discover that one of the things they thought was true previously is either flat out wrong or not quite right. Depending on your mindset, it’s either fascinating or frustrating or terrifying or infuriating to watch this play out day by day. It can be really hard to work on one’s mindset when the scientific consensus keeps changing and these changes impact our lives and our knowledge of how to be safe in the world in which we live. What I love is that I can do things to work on my own brain to change my mindset, and this can make me happier with the state of things (but that’s a whole other blog post, and it’s in process). Long story short, as of this writing: wear your mask in our buildings if you are age 5 or older and let us know if you need an accommodation and we will do our best to help find you an alternate way to use our services, but that will not include entering our buildings without a face covering of any kind. This guidance will almost certainly change again... and that’s OK... it doesn’t mean scientists are unintelligent, it shows they are doing their jobs!
There are definitely an array of mask-wearing strategies we see throughout the library. And, yes, those of you who leave your noses poking out... we do see you. As of this writing we also definitely need to talk to you about it. This is a legal requirement, with real adverse consequences to our organization if we don’t. Masks should cover from bridge of nose to chin... because current scientific consensus is that the virus is transmitted by air we breathe. And your mask isn’t only for your own safety, it’s for the safety of those around you. See above for why and how library policy is important and you will understand why it’s so important that we take this seriously. My point is, please be kind to the people working in the establishments you patronize. Those of us who work in them are also human beings who could get COVID-19 and we spend lengthy shifts breathing the air in these spaces. This means we are at risk to get ill, but also that we’d be super-efficient vectors of disease transmission given the numbers of people we interact with if we did contract the disease. Yes, we want you to be safe and healthy... but we also want our staff to be safe and healthy. Also, and not to belabor the point, mask wearing in public spaces is a legal requirement. Because we’ve been asked, we’ve researched it (we are, after all, librarians) and a mandate by the Governor is, in fact, a law. Let’s practice kindness and empathy to get through this together.
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