Queens Library Goes Virtual

By MIKE LEE

While New York City is in the throes of a second wave of coronavirus cases in the midst of the 10-month long pandemic, public workers on the frontlines continue to provide essential services.

These workers, including many DC 37 members, often take initiative to come up with inventive solutions to providing these public services.

A case in point is what the Queens Public Library has been doing for its estimated 2.3 million patrons. When the pandemic struck, the system had to close its 62 branches, along with seven Adult Learning Centers and two Family Literacy Centers.

The borough was among the hardest hit by COVID-19 nationwide, with 85,284 known cases and 7,337 deaths since early March.

As of Nov. 20, 35 branches are now open for Grab-and-Go service so members can pick up material ordered online or by telephone.

Queens Public Library Guild Local 1321 member Stanimir (Stan) Nenov, ITD Customer Service Manager.

Only three libraries, Kew Garden Hills, Forest Hills, and Rego Park, were temporarily closed because of COVID infections. Also, Kew Garden Hills, along with Windsor Park and Lefferts community libraries, are now temporary virus testing sites.

Central to the process to redefine services during the pandemic rests with the staff of the library’s Help Desk, which sprang into action.

A key person in bringing solutions to this unprecedented crisis is Stanimir (Stan) Nenov, ITD Customer Service Manager.

At Queens Library, the IT Department is called “Information Technology and Development,” Nenov said. “ITD includes our  networking, server, technicians, Help Desk, and web development groups.”

Nenov began his career at the Queens Public Library in 2007 as an Electronic Services Supervisor for the Central library. In 2009, he was promoted to the Help Desk Manager for Queens Public Library.

“The Help Desk covers the entire system of Queens Public Library with all of its 65 locations. Our Help Desk Team consists of six very dedicated and experienced employees who assist our staff over the phone and email seven days a week,” Nenov said.

At the Help Desk on a daily basis, Nenov oversees requests for technical assistance from staff and from patrons. “The team usually  resolves over  half of the  technical  requests on the spot and the more complicated calls move to the other technical groups in ITD  for resolution,” he said. “There is never a shortage of  new and interesting projects to work on.”

When the virus struck New York City, triggering closures of cultural institutions as part of the lockdown in mid-March, Nenov and his team never stopped working. 

“In the few weeks before the pandemic shutdown, we began giving essential library staff laptops and set up training sessions on working from home,” he said. “Instructions and systems needed to be set up and adjusted on the fly and sometimes we had to run two simultaneous training sessions on working from home to accommodate as many library staff members as we could at the time.”

The library Help Desk never stopped working. They provided staff with technology to work from home, access the library’s internal network and files, and the ability to conduct staff meetings and virtual programs for the public. 

“I was amazed by how quickly QPL staff was able to adapt during the first few weeks of the pandemic shutdown. If you open our Queens Library calendar today, you will be impressed by the variety and scope of our virtual programs offered,” Nenov said. “The pandemic has definitely accelerated our virtual services. Some of our popular virtual programs have astronomical virtual attendance.”

These programs include career development, story time, and virtual gaming, as well as maintaining teen writing and college readiness programs, among others. Also, the library purchased an additional online platform — Lynda.com — that expanded the number of classes and other offerings for patrons to access library materials.

The ITD team also expedited the development of the QPL mobile app for users to be able to read, listen and view library materials, which can be downloaded from
http://www.queenslibrary.org.

“Stan and his team are great,” said Queens Library Guild Local 1321 President John Hyslop. “They have kept our library running, even when things were so chaotic and bleak back in March.  In the beginning, we had no idea what we would be able to do.

“Thankfully, the Help Desk staff and the rest of ITD were a reassuring constant for us. They ensured that staff could transition from one model of service with few online services to a service model with robust online services. I am amazed at how they were able to adapt and innovate in such a short amount of time. Everyone in our library universe is lucky to have Stan and his colleagues,” said Hyslop, who also serves as DC 37 Secretary.

“The best aspect of our work is receiving appreciation from our colleagues and customers. Our work is behind the scenes until you encounter a problem — that is when everyone becomes aware of our presence, of how much we do and express their thanks,” Nenov said.

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