Union Public Library to curate COVID-19 letters from residents

Photo Courtesy of Karen O’Malley
Union Public Library is deserted while coronavirus rages through New Jersey.

UNION — Going forward, it is assumed that COVID-19 will permanently alter life as we know it. History is being made right now; future generations will read about this time period in school. Naturally, the Union Public Library wants to create a historical resource about this time period and is asking Union residents to send in letters and pictures documenting their time in quarantine.

With this new collection, the library plans to curate what it receives and log the submissions for future use.

“Union Public Library, in partnership with the Union Township Historical Society, is collecting this record to document how the people of Union Township are managing these unusual circumstances in their own words and in real time,” library Director Karen O’Malley said to LocalSource on April 11. “We invite those who live or work in Union to respond to one of the various questions we posed as prompts, to help them reflect and communicate what life in Union is like in April of 2020.

“The hope is that residents of all ages submit their experiences so we can create a comprehensive archive of this point in time,” she continued. “This situation is unfolding now but will be part of the history of this community. This archive will serve future generations interested in what life is like under quarantine. Sharing these experiences may help researchers understand the various ways the quarantine impacted this community, bringing greater understanding and better preparation in the event of another quarantine.”

According to its website, the Union Township Historical Society is dedicated to the preservation of the township’s rich history. Its mission is to collect and preserve historical artifacts, photographs, manuscripts, published works and other materials related to the history of the township and its residents. The historic Caldwell Parsonage, in existence since 1782, serves as the society’s museum and headquarters. Representatives from the UTHS did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Collecting what it receives from the public, the library will use a different approach for showcasing the curated material.

“Union Township Public Library will collect and organize the submissions,” O’Malley said. “With the assistance of our librarians and in consultation with local historians, we will present the material in a digital archive to share with the community as soon as possible. Additionally, we may share select submissions individually while this project is being developed. The final product will be intended to be a digital archive at this time.”

With material rolling in from residents, the Union Public Library has already seen an influx of pictures and letters ready to be curated.

“Yes, we are just getting started and have received a handful of written responses so far,” O’Malley said. “I am anticipating many more as the word spreads through community groups.”

During this historic time, according to O’Malley, it is beneficial for people everywhere to remember this time period by documenting their experiences, anxieties, fears and notable takeaways during their time in quarantine.

O’Malley reminds the public that the Union Public Library staff and some services are still available, even though the building is closed.

“Union Public Library wants everyone to know that while the doors of the library are closed temporarily, our service and engagement with the community goes on without interruption,” O’Malley said. “In addition to this project, we are still working to provide online programs, answer reference questions via chat in real time, and to provide more digital material and databases like Tutor.com, Hoopla, RBdigital and more. We want everyone to stay safe and healthy and are looking forward to seeing everyone again soon.”