Appomattox Regional Library System is documenting life during the coronavirus pandemic

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A picture of the front of the Appomattox Regional Library

HOPEWELL, Va. (WRIC) — The Appomattox Regional Library System is creating an archive of peoples’ accounts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Megan Kitchen, Community Relations Coordinator with ARLS, said one of the librarians came up with the idea because they wanted to figure out how to reach out to the community while the library was closed because of COVID-19, and to document their experiences during the pandemic.

“The inspiration came from different writings and diaries people kept during the Spanish Flu, and we thought that maybe in the future it would be interesting to look back on different documents from how people survived during the 21st Century pandemic,” Kitchen said.

The Library set up an online survey for people to fill out with different questions about their experience during the pandemic. Kitchen said some of the questions that try to capture people’s experience include “What surprised you about the pandemic?” and “What did you have problems finding in stores?”

So far, Kitchens said they have just been reaching out to people through social media to fill out the survey, and they’ve had everyone from reverends to nurses fill it out.

“We are also reaching out to the schools, the Chamber of Commerce and other local businesses so we can get different types of peoples’ of perspective,” Kitchen said.

She said the most important part of this is preserving the history for future generations.

“A lot of our children, especially I have a 5 year old, he doesn’t really understand what this all is,” Kitchen said. “He doesn’t understand why we have to stay home and he’s having a really complicated time grasping those things. So when he’s older and has questions about it this is a great resource.”

Kitchen added once the pandemic is over, she doesn’t think the world will ever truly return to the way it was before.

“Future generations might want to understand why maybe we might be a little more cautious in the future about things … there are a lot of things I didn’t think about before now that I have a lot of anxiety about and I don’t think that’s really going to go away,” Kitchen said.

“We’re living through fairly historic time right now and there’s not telling what this will look like when it’s all said and done,” said Charles E. Dane, Hopewell’s assistant city manager.

Dane said when the pandemic of 1918 hit, the town was only 2 years old so it wasn’t well documented. He said the project will make sure future generations know what happened during this one.

“It will be something people can look to later, many years down the road and see what really happened and what was really experienced here,” he said.

Kitchen said they will be sharing responses online, as well as in the library’s local history and genealogy room. Once it re-opens, she said the library reopens it will accept 2D objects like diaries and photos, but it does not have any space for 3D objects.

Kitchen said what has surprised her the most about this project is that people are still very hopeful.

“Of course the isolation is getting to everybody, the boredom is getting to everybody, but there are a lot of people in the community that are doing a lot of good and I think that everyone is noticing that,” she said.

Want to participate?

You can send in your submission to the library through a Google form here or by mailing documents to 209 E. Cawson Street, Hopewell, VA 23860. Kitchen said anyone is welcome to fill out the survey, whether you live in the Library’s district or not. You can also submit it anonymously if you wdo not want your name included.

Visit the library’s website to learn more about this project. If you have any questions you can email the library at admin@arls.org

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