Oakland’s Melrose Branch Library Workers During COVID-19: Photo Essay by William Truong

Editor’s Note: A year ago, schools physically closed and a form of distance learning ensued. To mark this past year, we are sharing photo essays by Oakland students. We partnered with Oakland School for the Arts’ Digital Media Department and teachers Ryan Sin, Lauren Scully, and Liam O’Connor. OSA is a public charter school in Oakland focusing on the arts. We invited photojournalist and East Bay Times staff photographer Ray Chavez to present workshops to students. The students took many photos this past year, documenting an aspect of life during the pandemic while schools were physically closed.

Below, high school sophomore William Truong documents some of the librarians at the Melrose Branch of Oakland Public Libraries this January. (Read more about what Oakland Public Libraries have done during the pandemic, from food distribution to continuing to serve the community).

I went to my local library, the Melrose Branch in Oakland, to capture how the library was operating during the pandemic caused by COVID-19. I chose to visit this branch to take photos because I have known this library for a long time and I have known some of the staff when I have volunteered several times in the past. I like the community “vibes” that this library emits!

Previously, visitors were able to come inside, read books, have community activities, and use the public computers. The community was very welcoming in the library where everyone participated in their various activities. Now, the library is pick-up only. The staff are hard at work to maintain the library by labeling books, rearranging the interior, and making sure that they are serving their community safely and efficiently. My goal in taking these images was to show how their work has changed since the start of the pandemic.

This is the new setup of the Melrose Library Branch. All interactions with the people have to be outside. I have gained an inside look on the interior where things are being moved around for renovations (seen in later photos).

A sign on marbled ground that says "please keep 6 feet of distance"
Photo by William Truong
bare wooden bookshelves in the corner of a library
Photo by William Truong

During the pandemic, the library had to make new adjustments by adding signs to stay 6 feet apart and things similar to that. The books had to be moved around since the setup of the library is changing, as seen in the empty shelf!  

A librarian gives out books to an elder wearing masks under a white tent
Photo by William Truong

A library worker helps a customer with book pick-up. As mentioned, the people who interact with the library would have to take place on the outside to keep the space inside the library safe and sanitary! Of course, everyone would have to wear a mask to stay safe during the pandemic. Don’t forget, wear a mask!

A librarian behind a desk piled high with books
Photo by William Truong

This person is scanning and sorting out books to see/manage their inventory of books. As you may imagine, this must be a lengthy and delicate task!

A man wearing blue jacket and red mask posed in front of a big bookshelf in the library.
Photo by William Truong

A portrait of a masked library worker in front of the proudly displayed books.  

A man wearing black hoodie, mask, glasses stands at the outdoor library tented kiosk during the pandemic
Photo by William Truong

Another library staff who is managing the new outdoor pickup setup due to Covid-19.

A blond-haired woman sits behind reception desk at library wearing mask and smiling at camera
Photo by William Truong

This library worker scans the DVDs to take inventory of them.

A library worker with wavy blonde hair wearing maroon colored mask and black hoodie stands by big bookshelves
Photo by William Truong

Another library worker posing in front of the CDs and DVDs on the shelves.

As we approach the one year anniversary of quarantine and online learning, it is important to persevere through these hard times. We should also appreciate the frontline workers and the people who serve the community who do their best to maintain the basic needs of ours. Take some time to say “thank you” or “thank you for what you are doing” that will make their day. Take care during these times!

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