While libraries have been shut down during the pandemic, librarians have kept busy. The Eastsider interviewed three librarians about how their job has changed since the outbreak began. Here's the last of those three Q&As.

Boyle Heights -- Like many parents working from home, Jennifer Duarte also had to learn how serve her community, while helping her 5 year-old navigate zoom school.

Duarte is the Children's Librarian at Benjamin Franklin Branch Library in Boyle Heights. She grew up visiting the Lincoln Heights and Arroyo Seco Regional branch libraries and is now on her seventh year working for the Los Angeles Public Library.

With a daughter who just started kindergarten, finding time to help her with online school has been a challenge, but she's taken advantage of the library's activities. Duarte has spearheaded popular series of virtual family and children's programs throughout the county to educate, entertain and enrich the lives of families sheltered at home.

What do you do as a librarian?

My main role at the library is to coordinate, promote and conduct children's programming. Outreach is also key. I became a librarian because the library is my happy place. I love that I get to do programming and events that serve the entire Boyle Heights community [like] share storytime, song and other activities. Not a day goes by that I don’t collaborate with amazing teachers, organizations and community stakeholders for the betterment of library services.

I also organize and lead regional meetings with all the 13 children's librarians at our Northeast area branch libraries. We work together to create fun and educational themed programs for the whole family. In addition, I help patrons at the reference desk with finding books or using library resources.

How have your responsibilities changed since the pandemic?

We have moved our programs online and have a strong presence in social media to connect to our community. With our daily calendar of online events, it is important now more than ever to be proficient in new technologies, such as Zoom. I now lead more meetings to keep the lines of communication open, which is especially crucial when working from home.

What's your favorite part of your job?

I'm really honored to be part of an organization that contributes so much to the well-being of Los Angeles residents. It's the most wonderful feeling when patrons visit the branch and tell me that they have such fond memories of the library. I always feel proud when I share that I am a librarian serving the city of Los Angeles.

What's the hardest part of your job?

I think the hardest part of my job is promoting library services to community members who don't have access to the internet. While online promotion of library services becomes more common, we have to find new and creative ways to connect with residents who are not on social media or on the internet due to lack of access or basic computer skills.

I think school outreach to parents in the community is an essential start to reach this population. We meet many families at schools that would otherwise not visit the library. It's great to answer their questions regarding library services. We promote library services for the entire family.

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How long have you been a librarian?

Born and raised in Northeast L.A., I attended Nightingale Middle School and Franklin High School. I grew up visiting the Lincoln Heights and Arroyo Seco Regional branch libraries. I've worked for the Los Angeles Public Library for seven years. I worked at the R.L. Stevenson branch for three years, and now here at the Benjamin Franklin Branch going on four years now.

Are you currently working inside the library?

I am currently telecommuting from home. At the very beginning of our telecommuting work, our administrators made the decision to host meetings in the afternoons to make it easier for parents to focus on work meetings. I have a young daughter at home attending school virtually, so I'm very grateful for this decision because it really speaks to the longstanding history of the library's commitment to families.

How has it been juggling your work at the library with helping your daughter with school work?

At the start of distance learning, it was really hard to create the boundaries between work spaces. Since my little girl is in kindergarten, she needed so much more support to navigate Zoom and other school platforms. After some time, she became more confident in doing things on her own, so now it’s less hands on work.

I learned that we each need a dedicated space to help give us a semblance of routine and stability. We have become more comfortable with our daily routine, although it is still a challenge. It’s an extra workload navigating my own work and being a mom.

Any advice for working parents during these strange times?

My advice is a no-tech solution to keep track of multiple due dates, reminders, etc. My husband and I jot down important things on a Family Board, which is pretty much a simple white board. It’s in a prominent place to make sure we notice the information every day.

I also encourage families to take advantage of our free library events like our Live Storytimes at 10 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays via the Los Angeles Public Library Facebook and YouTube. Also, if K-12 students need homework help, they can use our Virtual Student Zone to schedule an appointment. There are a lot of great resources for the whole family at lapl.org.

What is something you wish more people knew about your job?

I would like people to know that our commitment to library services does not stop, even in the midst of all that has taken place in the past months. The library is working hard for you. One look at our online calendar of events and you can see the variety of programming offered on a daily basis. A visit to our webpage at lapl.org will reveal a wealth of information and access to services for all ages.

Jennifer Duarte from Benjamin Franklin Branch Library in Boyle Heights

Jennifer Duarte is the Children's Librarian at Benjamin Franklin Branch Library in Boyle Heights. The photo was taken before the pandemic. 

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