Stephanie Vizzuett, a Mickelsen Community Library technician, tends to customers along Pershing Circle at Fort Bliss, Texas, Aug. 28, 2020. “Response has been good -- the staff has been really good at rising to the challenge,” said Jessica Pollock, the library director at Bliss. | Digital image by David Poe, USAG Fort Bliss

Brave New World: Bliss library outside-the-box serving families, training staff during pandemic

It seems there are a lot of things you can get curbside these days. Wedding dresses, groceries, tarot card readings — you name it.

At the temporarily-closed Mickelsen Community Library at Fort Bliss, Texas, closed to the public since the installation moved to Health Protection Condition Charlie earlier this year, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation library staff continue to run a curbside delivery service to safely serve their patrons during the current pandemic.

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., library-goers can call Mickelsen at 915-568-6156 and order books and other resources. Then, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., patrons with called-in orders can safely park along Pershing Circle (facing the Mickelsen main entrance), call the library, and a technician will meet them or pickups or returns with touchless contact.

In addition to their curbside service, the Mickelsen staff has upped their virtual programming to also serve families safely during the current pandemic.

On their FMWR Facebook page at @fortblisslibraries they recently offered superhero programming with prizes for participants, and they have an archaeology-based program lined up for their younger patrons in September.

The curbside delivery program, encouraged by Col. Stu James, the Bliss garrison commander, was influenced by similar programs already underway on other Army posts, and also in civilian communities. Bliss is home to approximately 35,000 Army family members.

“[James] noticed that other libraries had been doing the same program,” said Jessica Pollock, the Mickelsen library director, “and he wanted us to come up with a program that worked for us here at Fort Bliss. Response has been good — the staff has been really good at rising to the challenge.”

Pollock said there have been a few silver linings to the library’s temporary closure; one being Mickelsen is getting facility upgrades more quickly.

“One side of our building is being re-tiled, along with maintenance and upgrades,” she said, “and that’s been a lot easier to do without the patron safety issues we’d normally consider. The workmen have been able to get in and out with ease.”

Pollock also said staff members are using this unprecedented time to extensively cross-train to better serve Soldiers and families when their doors reopen. Mickelsen is home to the first Makerspace in the Army, which was funded with a grant from the U.S. Army Installation Management Command in 2017. Makerspaces are kid-friendly workspaces that focus on technology, hands-on building, education, and socialization for patrons of all ages.

You can get a lot of things curbside these days — bait, fried chicken, car parts — but for Brittny Campos, a library technician at Mickelsen, she and her team anxiously await the day when curbside at Mickelsen can once again be about parking.

“I know times are crazy right now,” said Campos. “As soon as we can get our doors open, we’ll welcome you back. We’re doing our best to make it safe for everyone involved.”

For more details on Mickelsen and the current status of Bliss FMWR facilities as the installation responds to the Covid-19 pandemic, click here.

Author: David Poe – Fort Bliss Public Affairs Office