This story is part of WDET’s Crossing the Lines: Canton Battles COVID series, reconnecting listeners with the people they met and issues they discovered during WDET’s 2019 Crossing the Lines Canton. Now, two years later, explore how the township of Canton has fared during the coronavirus pandemic and examine how the lives of residents have changed over the past year.
The Canton Public Library is a known gathering space in the township. Located in the Canton Municipal complex off Canton Center Road, residents use it for multiple group meetings, family outings and township-hosted events, including COVID-19 testing sites.
Before the start of the pandemic in March of 2020, the library averaged more than 2,000 visitors a day. During the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, the library had to continue restrictions, only letting people come in for holds, pickups and check-outs.
“The public library is that third place in our community. … And that I think has been one of the tremendous losses during this pandemic.” –Eva Davis, Canton Public Library Director
Eva Davis, director of the library, says residents are missing an important piece of their community. “The public library is that third place in our community. So it’s not work, and it’s not school. And it’s not your home, where you could go and experience your neighbors and experience community life in a pleasant environment where we didn’t expect you to pay for anything or buy anything. And that I think has been one of the tremendous losses during this pandemic.”
Davis also says it’s personally been tough for her too.
“When I needed a break from my computer and my paperwork in my offices, I’d go out to the children’s area, and just sit near the fish tank and watch the people of my community, mix and mingle and gather. That has been something that I have missed the most,” she says.
Davis says even when the building was completely closed to the public during the height of the pandemic, residents would sit outside the library to and use the Wi-Fi, which is strongest in the west parking lot. Unlike surrounding communities, Canton managed to successfully convert most of its services to online, giving residents virtual options for in-person activities like reading sessions for children and the adult writers group.
Canton Township Supervisor Anne Marie Graham-Hudak says the township was lucky that most residents have been able to connect virtually. “So I think that digital access in Canton helped keep our community tied together a little bit more, even though people were isolated in those homes,” she says.
Ready to Get Back to Normal
Even with access to virtual meetings and groups, Canton residents, like most in the country, are simply ready to get back to normal. That includes just hanging out at the library and meeting and interacting with new people from the community.
Adi Peshkess is an avid library user and a member of the Canton Writers Group. He says accessing services virtually just isn’t the same. “I haven’t seen as many new people joining in, I think, is really the big difference that we used to have, some people will drop out and new people will join in. And I think with everything being online, it’s harder for people to want to join in to a new thing, because you don’t get that experience of walking in and meeting people the same way that we did before,” he says.
Peshkess says he and his family are ready to get back to visiting and enjoying the library and taking advantage of all it has to offer.
“In terms of the library in general, I, you know, I’m just looking forward to getting back to normal, where it’s a place where we can go and spend an afternoon. That’s what I miss the most about it, I guess it in terms of resources that have been there,” he says.
Peshkess says he hopes once some sort of normalcy returns, more activities will be planned through the library. “I know that we talked about having like, guest speakers of local writers coming in and there’s the Michigan writers conference that happens every summer, I missed it this year, because it was online only. But that’s another great resource. Hopefully, maybe more of my local writers want to go to maybe as a group next year. So things like that, I guess, are kind of what I’m hoping for.”
The library has since reopened for 30-minute browsing sessions. Computer and equipment access remains unavailable until further notice. Right now, outdoor spring and summer community events are being scheduled.
Listen: With restrictions at library, Canton residents are missing an important piece of their community.