Newspaper, library partner to document COVID-19 in community

Published 9:52 pm Monday, May 4, 2020

We will not soon forget the experiences of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, but The Advocate-Messenger and the Boyle County Public Library will be partnering in a special project to document personal experiences, emotions and more from members of the local community.

The library is seeking writing from any local resident who wants to share their take on the experience, and writing prompts have been provided by the library staff to help encourage anyone who would like to write. Five writing prompts have been provided, and they include:

  1. When did you first hear about the virus? Did you pay much attention to the news of the virus before it started to affect the United States? When did you start to realize the virus might have an impact on your life?
  2. During this time, regarding the changes imposed because of the virus, which changes have had the biggest negative (or positive) impact on you? What impact have they had on your daily routine?
  3. If you have been quarantined due to possible interaction with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, or if you have tested positive, what has your experience been like? How are you coping, physically and mentally?
  4. Because of the physical distancing measures, have you reconnected with anyone? Who were they? (If you prefer to use pseudonyms, just put quotation marks around the fake names.) What led you to connect with them? What method of technology did you use to reconnect? What did you learn from reconnecting with them?
  5. What acts of kindness (or instances of people behaving badly) have you seen or experienced during the shutdown?

Choose any, or all, of the writing prompts, and write at least one paragraph for each prompt, but no longer than a double-sided sheet of paper per prompt. Responses can be sent via email to or may be submitted directly to the library’s website at Physical paper copies will also be accepted when the library reopens. For more information, contact reference librarian Jamie Helle at

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The Advocate-Messenger will publish some of the writings in a special issue in the coming months.

In addition, the newspaper is working on a special video project featuring short interviews with local residents who would like to share their experiences. Business owners, organization leaders, and everyday citizens are encouraged to be involved. The video will be published on the newspaper’s website, as well as the BCPL site, and also shown at a public viewing at a later date when social distancing restrictions allow. You may participate in the video as well as submitting writing to the library. If you would like to share a brief word in the video, contact Advocate-Messenger Editor Jeff Moreland at, or call 859-469-6413. You will receive a reply soon to make safe, social distancing arrangements to record your statement.

The staff members of the newspaper and the library are excited about this project, and hope Boyle Countians will take part to help document the impact this pandemic has had directly on the local community.

The following is a writing sample from Jamie Helle, reference librarian at Boyle County Public Library.

Boyle County Public Library reference librarian Jamie Helle spent time in China as the coronavirus began to spread. Fortunately she made it safely home and has not experienced any sickness. (Photo submitted)

When did you first hear about the virus? Did you pay much attention to the news of the virus before it started to affect the United States? When did you start to realize the virus might have an impact on your life?


My first encounter with the virus started with the first overseas vacation I had taken in years. I decided to visit my fiancé, who is teaching overseas, during his winter break. China could be fun, right?!

That changed when China started talking about travel restrictions and shutdowns due to a virus. I could no longer travel around as a tourist, but had to ‘shelter in place’ near Shanghai.

I was scheduled to leave on the last day the airlines were permitting flights out of China. There were rumors that it was going to stop sooner, but no one wanted to create a panic.

Too late! A friend in the U.S. started to worry I wouldn’t get back at all; she rescheduled my flight for four days earlier on Monday. I got an email Saturday at midnight, cancelling my flight and asking me to reschedule for a flight leaving in 12 hours. This left me six hours to pack and sleep before I began 30 hours of travel: taxi, train, taxi, plane. Every stop had temperature checkpoints. Imagine my fear after pushing over 100 pounds of luggage up a ramp, sweating and out of breath wearing a face mask and running into a thermal scanner.

A massive wave of relief hit me when I landed in Lexington. Due to self-imposed at-home quarantine, I missed my aunt’s 80th birthday party and stayed out of the doctor’s office. After quarantine, I wore a mask everywhere for the first two weeks and checked my temperature every day.

Fortunately I never got sick, but that first month back was nerve wracking.