Lauren Nichols remembers March 13, 2020. It was the day before the Am O'Gansett Parade was to embark on its march up Main Street from the Amagansett Library.
With Covid-19 beginning to invade the South Fork, the parade was canceled, and the library's director closed the doors that day for the start of an expected two-and-one-half-week shutdown. The library would not reopen to the public for months.
Like the other libraries in the Town of East Hampton, the Amagansett Library offers more than books and DVDs: A full slate of events — author talks, book discussion groups, classes, and exhibitions — typically happen throughout the year.
"When we shut the doors, we tried to pivot to curbside pickup, online programing, and really offer ourselves as a place for people to reach out if they need help. If it's not something we could help with, we connect them with a solution."
The exercise class, book clubs, and art and writing classes quickly migrated online and have proven very popular, Ms. Nichols said, so popular, in fact, that some will continue online when normal life finally resumes. The library also offers myriad e-books and magazines, and untold hours of streaming audio, via its website.
But it wouldn't be a library without the human factor. "People are faced with such varying challenges," Ms. Nichols said.
"Most of us never had to deal with anything like this. We're finding that we're here to listen, and see what we can do to help people adjust, deal, and cope," whether that means a book, a movie, even a laptop computer and portable Wi-Fi hotspot.
"We try to help coordinate with food delivery and social services," Ms. Nichols said, "particularly food, because food security is such a big issue now. People who never had to think about it before, now do. So we collect food and coordinate with local distribution points."
The Amagansett Library offers home delivery for those unable to, or uncomfortable with, leaving home. It is now open Monday through Saturday, and "we are going to try to keep the building open if at all possible, so people have somewhere to go. I can't believe how many library cards we give out, both to new neighbors and people who've been in the community for years."
Residents "can always call us if they need help for anything," Ms. Nichols said. "We can put them in touch with someone who can help. If they want to revisit the joys of reading print materials, we're happy to put books aside for them, or they can come in and browse. We've updated ventilation, and crowds seem to self-moderate as well. It seems to have worked itself out."
"That's what a community library is about," she said. "Helping people."