North Las Vegas Library Staff Key Players in City’s COVID-19 Response
Ask Sonja Grace what her job title is and she jokes with “Superwoman”.
But she might not be wrong.
Before a pandemic hit the world, Grace was a library assistant at Aliante Library in North Las Vegas. She officially retains the job title, but her duties over the past year have expanded far beyond what she signed up for.
That’s because Grace is one of nine North Las Vegas Library District staff who have taken on any work needed to help the city and region respond to the public health crisis.
“Yeah, travel to the future, they’ll say, ‘What did you do during the pandemic?’ Grace said. “At least we can say we’ve helped all of these families and businesses stay afloat and stay alive.”
The pandemic response team consisted of four employees from the Alexander Library and four from the Aliante Library, as well as Aliante branch manager Shelly Alexander.
The first weeks of the health crisis were spent helping the Three Square food bank, Alexander said. Library staff then approached businesses to encourage them to apply for loans.
His team briefed businesses on what they needed to do to reopen. Employees were also sent to the Southern Nevada Health District to help with contact tracing, and in late summer began helping with business and housing grants.
“Everyone has different stories and you were there to listen to them and hear them cry on the other line,” Grace said. “It kind of touched your heart.”
More recently, library staff have helped plan immunization appointments.
The city said its work, combined with running a “virtual library” during a pandemic, led the North Las Vegas Library District to be a finalist for the National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which rewards museums and libraries that demonstrate excellence in service. The North Las Vegas Library District is the only institution in the state to be named, the city said.
Alexander said most of his team who worked on the pandemic response had been in the library for less than a year. She said the virus outbreak had shown her just how adaptable her team was.
“Not everyone can change, you know, just like that,” she said, snapping her fingers. “And they really got to pick things up, so I know when we go back to being just a regular library again, it’s going to be fine.”
A flexible response
Deputy city manager Alfredo Melesio Jr. said the decision to assign library staff to other tasks was rooted in the city’s “general philosophy of responsive government”. He said these employees have been able to adapt to almost anything the city has asked them to do.
“I have to tell you that I am so grateful and grateful,” he said.
City manager Ryann Juden said library employees deployed to help the Three Square food bank in the days following the outbreak of the pandemic. Their effort represents an example of good government, he said.
“I think for me that team, their flexibility, has allowed us to quickly staff and support all kinds of COVID relief priorities over the past year,” he said.
Jasmine Haynes, a library assistant who also works at Aliante Library, said workers always received emails thanking them for their help.
“It’s like we’re a lifeline for our residents, and it’s awesome,” said Haynes.
Libraries in North Las Vegas offer curbside service but remain closed to the public. Haynes said workers are now partially operating a library and partially working on a vaccination program for housebound residents which started this week.
“So it’s like we’re working on both sides of the fence, but it’s not stressful because it’s like, it’s a job that needs to be done, it’s my job to do it, and it is a rewarding duty, ”she said.