At the Library: Hope and inspiration in the midst of a pandemic

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I am standing at my improvised computer desk (a cat carrier on my dining table) thinking about what the future may look like beyond COVID-19. How will our society change? Will we continue to communicate via our phones and computers, working from home, separate from our friends and co-workers? Will we never have another church potluck with friends? Will people I trusted turn ugly and violent like in a post-apocalyptic movie? I certainly hope not.

When faced with scary, worldwide events like this pandemic, I am challenged to stay balanced — to walk forward between the serious event on one side and happy denial on the other. I am primarily a positive realist, meaning I acknowledge this serious pandemic. Yet I also hope for a world beyond the virus.

The past gives me hope. My grandparents lived through the flu pandemic in 1918, marrying in November 1919 when my grandfather got out of the Army following World War I.

But Americans are not fighting in a world war today. We are drawing together to encourage each other in the fight against this virus. News reports and friends’ stories of acts of kindness remind me of the American spirit shown during both world wars.

I lived through the Cold War, at a time when a regular part of the school day meant practicing what to do if there was a nuclear attack.

But the attack never came.

What has come, borne by this pandemic, is change. We are socially distant from others, we wear masks, we “stay home and stay safe” to slow the spread of the disease, we are in quarantine.

Businesses are closed. Libraries are closed. Only essential places remain open: grocery stores, hospitals, law enforcement offices, fire departments. Possibilities of an economic recession are debated on TV. Concerns are raised about food shortages.

In the midst of it all, I planted tomatoes and cucumbers, bell peppers and herbs. I call and talk with family and friends. I take groceries to a friend. I sit in the sun reading a good book, and visiting with my husband.

Some people join online choirs. Others create rainbow signs of gratitude and love to display on their lawns or in their front windows. People share meals with those working in hospitals.

I read about what other libraries are doing to assist and serve their patrons. I meet weekly with co-workers via Zoom, planning how to provide the best library services during this time; services like digital library cards to access our eBook and eAudiobook collections, and virtual programs like storytimes, trivia nights and digital escape rooms.

I think of the possibilities for positive change and, most of all, I choose hope.

To browse or borrow e-books about hope and inspiration, visit and try:

  • “The Greatest Generation” by Tom Brokaw.
  • “Unshakable Hope” by Max Lucado.
  • “Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times,” edited by Carolina de Robertis.
  • “Almost Everything: Notes on Hope” by Anne Lamott.
  • “The Boy who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope” by William Kamkwamba.

Rondi Downs is managing librarian for Yakima Valley Libraries. She and other library staffers write this weekly column for SCENE. Learn more at

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