COVID Heroes

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people across the globe stepped up in new and innovative ways to provide services of all kinds to those in need. It was no different at Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD). Below, we celebrate members of the PPLD community who were nominated by their peers for going above and beyond to provide library services during the pandemic.

Tina MatiatosTina Matiatos, Rockrimmon Library

When the pandemic hit, PPLD had to quickly pivot services, including providing curbside service for patrons to pick up their holds and print jobs. This was a monumental task completed by staff throughout the District. Some adjustments were seemingly minor, but still provided a large impact on a personal level. Those with hearing impairment can have a particularly difficult time understanding people wearing masks because much communication is done by reading lips. Rockrimmon Library Children’s Associate Tina Matiatos noticed a regular patron, who is deaf, approach for curbside service. “She quickly went to remove her mask and put on her clear face shield so she could be more easily understood by the patron,” recalls Rockrimmon Library Manager Steve Abbott. “He was able to get what he needed and was visibly moved by her actions.”

Nichol PatrickNichol Patrick, Penrose Library, and Amber Cox, Creative Services

Masks were difficult to acquire when COVID-19 cases began to increase, and there was a need among Library staff and their families for face coverings. In particular, staff preparing Library facilities to provide public services needed masks to protect their coworkers.

Creative Services oversaw a massive effort by staff throughout the District to create masks for employees, as well as personal protective equipment for the community. “Amber Cox modified sewing patterns for four different sizes of masks, helped figure out how the sewing stations would work in the libraries, and really led the effort to get this done so staff could be safe and comfortable during this time,” reports Creative Services Librarian Morgan Sawicki.

Nichol Patrick, Library Assistant at Penrose Library, also made masks for staff. “With no expectations of any kind of reimbursement, she gave her time and used her own money freely to making sure we all had as many masks as we needed,” recalls Debbie Vitulli, Penrose Library Senior Assistant. “Her homemade face masks are the most comfortable masks that I have and are very stylish.”

Abby SimpsonAbby Simpson, Phased Reopening Team Lead

As soon as PPLD closed its doors, planning began to determine how services would be safely reintroduced to the public. Abby Simpson not only oversaw the team that crafted that plan, but also the formation of around 30 other teams that focused on various aspects of the phased reopening and engaging staff at home because of the lockdown. “Abby was heroic for her effort in organizing the teams that got us all engaged and through the hardest times,” remembers Director of West Region Michael Doherty. This was all done on top of her duties as Director of PPLD’s Southeast Region, which among other things hosted a supply drive at Sand Creek Library. “Abby is a leader of action and she keeps us engaged and eager to serve the community in the best way possible,” says East Library Manager Janina Goodwin. “I truly admire Abby. She’s absolutely incredible in how she weaves her goals and values into her work to benefit everyone.”

Gary Syling
Gary Syling, Facilities

“Gary has been steadfast and unconditionally loyal to all things concerning the reopening of the Library and all its locations,” says Facilities Project Manager Loyd Neal. As Chief Facilities Management Officer, Syling oversaw many projects his department took on throughout the Library District, including the securing and distribution of cleaning supplies and the installation of protective shields at service points. Facilities also installed water stations for the public at Penrose Library when there was no access to the inside of the building. Olson Plumbing & Heating, Rampart Supply, and Colorado Sheet Metal donated the supplies for those stations.

Juanita LanauxJuanita Lanaux, Information Technology

In addition to shifting services for patrons, PPLD staff also had a lot of work to do behind the scenes to enable Library staff to work from home. With more employees working remotely, the IT End User Services (EUS) team, led by Director of IT Technical Support Juanita Lanaux, jumped into action. “Laptops and hotspots were delivered to staff all over the city at all hours of the day and night,” says Director of IT Infrastructure Annelise Parker. They also installed remote tools and phone software so the Library could continue providing services to the community. “I am proud of the EUS team,” says Lanaux, “And I love knowing that our IT department was a part of supporting the wonderful staff at PPLD during COVID-19.”

Debbie VitulliDebbie Vitulli, Penrose Library

During the pandemic, PPLD staff served the community even beyond their library duties, including Penrose Library Senior Assistant Debbie Vitulli. “Immediately upon learning of PPLD’s closure, Debbie turned to the community seeking opportunities to help,” says Bill Thomas, who retired this year from PPLD’s Regional History & Genealogy department. “It wasn’t long before she found a volunteer position with Westside CARES working at a food bank. She then volunteered to personally deliver food parcels to homebound members of our community. She also found a third volunteer position with Family Promise, where she worked tirelessly to support families who suddenly found themselves homeless because of the pandemic.”