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 first of those three Q&As.

Highland Park -- Dora Suarez, 49, has been a Senior Librarian at Arroyo Seco Regional Branch Library in Highland Park for nearly 24 years. She was born and raised in Boyle Heights and started working at her local library when she was teenager. Now, Suarez runs the busiest Library To Go location in Northeast LA. In a Q&A, Suarez shares her experience as a librarian during the pandemic.

What do you been doing during the pandemic?

The librarians that are working from home -- some of them are doing story time -- are also answering reference questions for the HUB [the 24 branches that have Libraries To Go services].

We're also disaster service workers. Before we opened our hubs, I worked for the Senior Meal hotline. So people were calling us, and we were registering them for the Senior Meals. They also worked at the hotel for people that are experiencing homelessness and had become infected with the virus. Also some librarians are working as contact tracers.

What does you day look like?

Today, we just did an initial setup, making sure that we process all our [books on hold]  for delivery, probably before 10 o'clock because once 10 o'clock hits the phone lines start ringing. And we have to process books, answer the phone call, schedule appointments for people to pick up their books, and answer reference questions. Usually we have meetings on Monday, midday, at two o'clock when it's a little less hectic than in the morning.

I work at the [Arroyo Seco] branch three days a week. And then, Thursday and Fridays I work at home and another team comes in and does the same thing we do.

How have your responsibilities changed since the pandemic?

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It's a much faster pace. When I first started the hub, the phone calls were were intense. People had been waiting for us! Not only to read as an educational outlet but also for pleasure, watching a DVD.

When we started the process, it was like, woah, I can't catch up. And you know, people want to read and watch a movie. And so yeah, I did find myself a bit busy.

When we first opened we had  about 800 holds on our shelves. We had to call patrons and tell them, "Do you still want your book?" And most people say "yes. Now we have about 3,000 books and every day we get a lot of books coming in. They have slowed down because obviously the holidays, but nonetheless, we were still getting people coming in. We averaged about 100 pick-ups per day. 

What's your favorite part of your job?

Getting to talk to patrons again!  Say "hey, we're back in business. How can I help you? Oh, you need home help? Let me refer you to the site online."

That has been my most favorite part and also when I was being a disaster service worker, talking to the patrons that were in need, trying to get them meals. That was great. That was something different from what I do, but it was, it was very, very rewarding.

What's the hardest part of your job?

Trying to prepare ourselves for phase two, which would be when we open to the public. How are we going to do that? How are we going to monitor people coming in now? Are we going to have a limit of patrons staying in library, when usually patrons could stay here all day. Now, if we're going to have a maximum capacity of patrons inside the building, then we're going to have to come up with a plan. We really don't know how we're going to figure this out. But for right now I think we're filling a need for all our patrons to get books in their hands -- a hard copy instead of a digital copy.

Dora Suarez from Arroyo Seco Regional Branch Library

Dora Suarez from Arroyo Seco Regional Branch Library in Highland Park.

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