The ability to offer in-person programming will vary for every organization, but the most common scenario is that the “new normal” will not reflect the “pre-COVID-19 normal.” Every member of the community, including staff, have been marked by this traumatic historic event. Everyone’s needs, interests, and even preferences have changed or been altered due to the effects of a pandemic, such as physical distancing, telework or distance learning, quarantining from family and friends, a lack of socialization, shifts in relationships, illness, and even deaths.
- Trauma-Informed Approach
- It is imperative when planning and assessing an organization’s ability to create in-person programming that the planners take a trauma-informed approach for both their staff and patrons’ wellbeing.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), individual trauma results from an event, a series of events, or a set of circumstances experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being. From SAMHSA’s description, the events surrounding the pandemic apply to many individuals.
Any type of organization can provide services following a trauma-informed framework by incorporating six principles of trauma-informed care. According to SAMHSA those principles include:
- peer support;
- collaboration and mutuality;
- empowerment, voice and choice; and
- cultural, historical, and gender issues
i.The matter of safety is addressed in aforementioned areas of space, capacity, and the use of safety regulations and procedures. Beyond these areas of physical safety, the matter of emotional safety should be considered. The public and staff may have differing opinions about what is “safe” based on the news, press releases, internal knowledge, and personal comfort.
When an organization decides to resume in-person programming, there will be individuals throughout the spectrum of readiness. Some patrons will think it is long overdue while others will firmly believe it is too soon. And lastly, some may be unsure what to think but trust their library to “know what’s best” and take their cue from the library’s actions. Organizations should keep in mind that even though someone attends an in-person program their ability to cope with traumatic triggers may be less than others’.
Therefore, it is recommended that organizations have a space or practice to address those individuals who attend in-person programming who may suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, inability to stay in a “crowded” space, emotional reactions to lack of soap or sanitizer, and more.
See the Policy section for additional recommendations and ideas on this issue.
i. One of the chief concerns about resuming in-person programming is trustworthiness. Trustworthiness is only achievable through transparency and vulnerability. Organizations should be up front with the fact that “post-COVID-19 programming will not be the same as pre COVID-19 programming” as well as the reasons, which include staffing limitations, limited resources, restructuring to the new normal, and so on.
ii. Organizations should evaluate and project their budget for the next few years to ascertain if in-person programming can be maintained. The long-term effects that COVID-19 will have on library budgets are unknown, but organizations should plan conservatively. Organizations do not want to offer a program that is needed by the community and popular but that they are unable to maintain. The result would be a disappointment and loss of trustworthiness with their community.
d. Peer support
i. Before implementing in-person programming, which may be the first in-person, non-household experience for staff and patrons, staff should be given the tools to deal with the public as well as their own trauma. Trauma-Informed training is available in virtual, hybrid and, in some cases, in-person models. In addition, Mental Health First Aid training for adults and teens would be beneficial for staffing dealing with the public to recognize breakdowns, panic attacks, and other behavior as well as next step practices.
e. Collaboration and mutuality
- Develop partnerships
- Ensure mutual decision making within your system
- Use the Environmental Scan Trauma Planning Doc
f. Empowerment, voice and choice:
- Involve community in survey for in-person programming, consider inclusivity and accessibility.
- Staff voice and concern during reopening phases and in-person programming
- Use the Trauma Informed Communication Checklist
g. Cultural, historical, and gender issues:
Because of historical distrust between some communities and public/government agencies:
- Use local partnerships to reach demographics
- Conduct anti-misinformation training for staff exploring topics of misinformation and providing patrons with resources, definitions, approaches, and strategies they can employ in their institutions to address the topic of misinformation with patrons
f. Transportation assistance Using transportation methods like Uber or Lyft at a discounted rate to allow patrons with big crowd anxiety and wish to avoid public transportation get to and from the library. Some cities offer free or low-cost transportation to seniors, such ACC Services in Sacramento.