The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has caused many libraries to close their doors to the public, but their staff have still been hard at work keeping their communities connected while social distancing.
We asked I Love Libraries readers and the American Library Association’s social media followers to share how their libraries have adapted to these challenging times. Here are a few of the highlights:
“All programming has gone virtual, from storytime for the kids to crafts and cooking for all ages; short story book discussion club; general book discussion clubs about any and all genres; topiary design; jewelry making; bath salts as gifts, chocolate making; authors’ discussions; musical entertainment, history programs; there isn’t a topic that has not been approached and re-purposed for all who care to Zoom in. We are not just a building full of books: we have become the cultural hub of the community, virtually, as we were in person before the pandemic.”—Judith E., Millburn Free Public Library (New Jersey)
“We were able to offer a way for researchers to utilize the software in our physical computer lab through a remote connection, allowing them the same functionality from the comforts of their home or offices. A lot of the specialized software on our computers can be expensive for an individual or department to license, so we are so happy to have been able to continue enabling access for our researchers in a safe, remote environment.”—Holly D., Ohio State University
“We created a monthly event called Snackchat. This combines the food and fun of traditional programming, with a book talk element. Before the program, the snack bag of the month is picked up through contact-free services. The kiddos then hop on the Zoom call split up by grade and talk about books they have read that month with a specific theme: fantasy, historical fiction, graphic novels, and more. They also enjoy a fun activity which is ready for them in the bag.”—Christine S., Sierra Madre Public Library (California)
“For the younger students (preschool through third grade) I am now ‘The Rolling Library’! I visit their classroom, with my cheerfully decorated cart to present stories/library lessons each week. The students love to see ‘who’ I am going to have on my cart—a Beanie Baby turkey? a snowman? a Valentine pup? Whoever gets to come of course is also wearing a mask as a sweet reminder.”—Julie C., Tipton Community Schools (Iowa)
“Our library has kept busy by offering innovative youth programs such as outdoor scavenger hunts, a life-size Candyland game on the grounds, and virtual story times. We’ve also offered hotspot and Chromebook checkouts, online speaker events, BINGO card reading challenges, and have continued to circulate book and movies curbside. Currently we’re hosting the free VITA tax services, done completely curbside by having a walk-up window where clients can exchange materials with tax preparers without having to enter the building. We are so pleased to continue to serve our community!”—Sai E., Watauga County Public Library (North Carolina)
“In September, we held our first Virtual Fall Fest, an online and interactive event with the theme ‘Libraries for All.’ Over five days, each of our libraries held a synchronous or asynchronous event that was promoted via all library social media channels, including Drag Story Hour, workshops, quizzes, a whodunit mystery event, and more. Students who participated in the week’s events received a one-of-a-kind t-shirt designed by library staff.”—Robin F., University of Florida
“The Teen Book Drop program offers teens a unique way to connect with their library from afar. These kits were designed to feel like a subscription box with a young adult book selection paired with themed activities and souvenirs. The first-ever TBD box featured My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma and included extras like mehndi-style temporary tattoos, mandala sand art designs, a movie review kit, movie buff trophy, and microwave popcorn snack. All items included in the boxes were free for teens to keep and enjoy.”—Emily O., Berks County Public Libraries (Pennsylvania)
Subscribe to the I Love Libraries newsletter for more great stories about how libraries are transforming amid the pandemic. Lead photos courtesy of Watauga County Public Library and Tipton Community Schools.