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Virtual Library Programs Abound During Pandemic

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Libraries offer far more than just free access to books—they also host entertaining and informative programs for people of all ages. While the COVID-19 crisis has prevented libraries from hosting events in-person, they’ve transitioned to offering a diverse array of online activities for their communities to enjoy.

For those who have been missing plays and museums during the pandemics, libraries have found creative ways to offer cultural experiences online. California’s Russell Library has collaborated with local artists on “A Midsummer Night’s Stream,” a multi-week Shakespeare production conducted entirely over Zoom. Batavia Public Library in Illinois has adapted their Sundays on Stage series into which as a virtual program, in which actors bring history to life by portraying past figures like flappers and Florence Nightingale. In addition to theatrical entertainment, many libraries are also offering remote book clubs, so that readers can stay connected while maintaining social distancing.

Libraries also have plenty of virtual programs for keeping kids engaged while they’re out of school. Remote storytimes have been a popular way to promote early literacy during the pandemic, and librarians have pulled out all the stops to make these read-alouds special for families, from elaborate costuming to celebrity guests. The Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at University of Georgia is planning a Virtual Family Day to share their women’s suffrage exhibit with K-12 students; the day will feature an online suffragette storytime and crafting activities.

Many people have started pursuing new hobbies while quarantining, and libraries have stepped up to offer online how-to sessions to help their communities develop new skills. Portsmouth Public Library in New Hampshire has hosted remote programs about gardening and plant foraging; California’s Sausalito Public Library has partnered with a local food therapist to offer virtual classes focused on cooking and nutrition. Vernon Area Public Library in Illinois has also used their remote programming to highlight community businesspeople: they recently held a virtual beer tasting featuring drinks from a nearby brewery.

While online programming has allowed many Americans to enjoy their libraries’ offerings remotely, not everyone has access to the internet at home or is comfortable using a computer. With that in mind, many libraries are also offering phone programs as an alternative to web-based activities. Colorado’s Jefferson County Public Library has hosted call-in programs focused on everything from meditation and stress management to writing workshops.

Ready to try a virtual program? Visit your library’s website to see what they have to offer.

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