Libraries in Martinsville and Patrick County recently obtained new privacy pods, soundproof workstations which provide users with a quiet and private place to work.
The pods were made possible with left-over American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds as a project from the Library of Virginia, which approached Rick Ward, director of the Blue Ridge Regional Library system, about the opportunity.
“They gave us a webinar with another director who had purchased one and they were trying to show us how well they worked. They had some ARPA funds left over and they were just getting a feel for who would like to have one,” Ward said.
The booths are “similar to an old phone booth,” he said, adding they are nearly soundproof, with motion activated lights and circulation fans, outlets for electronic devices, and a chair and small desk.
“We’ve checked them out and I was told that someone got in it and yelled, you could just barely hear them on the outside,” Ward said.
Garry Clifton, branch manager at the Patrick County Library, said patrons can utilize the pods in many different ways.
“They’re set up as privacy rooms, and they can be used for people that need a place to do work, so they can work over the web, like Zoom. It can also be used, possibly, for tele-(health). It can also be used for people to make private phone calls because it has the sound dampening insulation” and those on the outside can’t hear. “It can also be used just for a quiet place to study,” Clifton said.
The pods have been received positively.
“I can actually see the pod from my office and so far, it’s been pretty good. I’ve seen I don’t know how many people have used it, and we’ve gotten very positive comments back from the patrons who have used it,” Ward said.
Clifton reports a similar reception.
It “has been good. I would say that, in Patrick County, I don’t think many people had ever seen them before. I had not seen one before. So, we’ve been answering a lot of questions, but we have had some people that have been coming in and using it, especially to be able to make phone calls,” Clifton said.
The branches prefer for patrons to reserve the pods whenever possible to help avoid conflicts of time.
“We like for you to check in with us and it’s better” to reserve, “because that way we don’t have people trying to use it at the same time. If somebody came in and needed it and nobody had signed up to use it, of course we would let them go ahead and use it. But we prefer that you sign up for it if you know in advance that you’re going to need it,” Ward said.
While Ward would like to implement these pods at other branches, this is dependent on two factors: size and funding.
“What I was mainly concerned about was the size. They’re fairly large, and some of our branches wouldn’t have room for them, I don’t think,” Ward said.
The branches would also need to receive more funding for the purchase, delivery, and assembly of the pods before they could be installed at other branch locations.
“We’re very, very grateful to the Library of Virginia for giving us this opportunity to acquire them, because we wouldn’t have been able to without their help,” Ward said.