While public libraries in Berks may be closed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, you can still find storytimes, science experiments, and even dance parties on their library social media pages.
When children’s library assistant Laura Carson found out that her family dance party at Exeter Community Library would have to be postponed, she moved it to a new space instead—her living room. Streaming live on her library’s Facebook page, Carson led families in songs, rhythm games, and dance moves in a virtual library program.
“The library is here to provide resources for our community. Closing our doors doesn’t mean we’ve stopped doing that,” Lorraine Storms, spokesperson for the Exeter Community Library, said. “We’ve just had to get more creative with our methods of delivery.”
Virtual library programs and activity prompts, along with access to eBooks and links to educational resources, can be found on Berks libraries’ social media accounts. It’s an effort to give families a sense of normalcy, says Meghan Golden, youth program coordinator at West Lawn-Wyomissing Hills Library.
“Routines are off, [families are] struggling with isolation and home learning, and the littlest ones don’t understand. So we do this to give them that sense of comfort and familiarity,” Golden, who spent 5 hours developing a website to upload her virtual programs, said. “And to help the parents keep from losing their minds!”
On Wernersville Community Library’s Facebook page, youth services coordinator Tara Gouldey hosts storytime and craft nights in front of her bookshelves and at her kitchen table.
“We would like to keep [families] engaged and happy at home, even if it is only for a few minutes a day,” Gouldey said. Her library and others are also promoting daily activities on Facebook, like building challenges and in-home scavenger hunts. Some libraries even have prizes for participants.
Kelly Jacoby, the youth librarian at Schuylkill Valley Community Library, has been hosting storytimes not from her house, but from fire trucks and ambulances. At her other job as an emergency medical technician for Northern Berks EMS, Jacoby has been reading books and giving tours of emergency vehicles through Facebook Live as a virtual field trip for families.
Jacoby and other Berks libraries also host Quaran-STEAM sessions, where families can gather up the household goods they need to conduct a science experiment alongside video tutorials facilitated by librarians.
On Brandywine Community Library’s social media, youth services coordinator Yvonne Mary Albright organized families to help her plan a “bear hunt” in their town. Based on the popular preschool rhyme, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” families displayed teddy bears in their homes’ windows for families on exercise strolls to search out.
“Our community is more like an extended family,” Albright said. “It’s important for me to provide hope in uncertain times and maintain our connection with our community members.”
Instead of the usual smiles and laughs that accompany an in-person storytime or program, librarians have to make do with “likes,” emails, and comments.
“We received a number of emails from our preschool patrons who were thrilled to be able dictate an email to their storytime teacher,” said Stacy Laucks, children’s programming assistant at Fleetwood Area Public Library. She posts activity challenges intended for everyone to try (including adults!) and emails storytime videos to regular participants twice a week.
Even simple updates and “hellos” from librarians have been appreciated by library patrons. Oley Valley Community Library director Noel M. Christman posts daily updates about how she and her family spent each day. “I have welcomed our patrons into my personal life,” Christman said.
Tara Ring, public relations coordinator for Muhlenberg Community Library, posted a video of youth services coordinator Jackie Mae Clark greeting patrons from her sofa.
“The response from the regular storytime-goers was huge,” Ring said.
It’s clear that patrons are missing their favorite librarians, and librarians say the feeling is mutual. “It is important to me to stay connected to people and people who love and use the library are some of my favorite people,” Candace Donato, youth librarian at Spring Township Library, said.
“By posting on our library Facebook page, I feel I can stay connected to all the patrons and their families. I cherish that bond. It is important to me to maintain that bond.”
Despite the success of their virtual library programs, the transition from librarian to video star hasn’t been easy for some.
“I am not a fan of watching myself wiggle like a nut while belting the ‘Hokey Pokey’,” Womelsdorf Community Library’s youth librarian Sarah Bair admitted. “But, I really miss my storytime kiddos, and if I think that I can reach even one of them through virtual story time, then I will shamelessly read to a camera all day long.”
You can connect with your favorite library or drop in on some virtual storytimes by visiting the library Facebook pages. For more information on library updates during the COVID-19 Pandemic, please visit berkslibraries.org/coronavirus-updates.
Written by Marissa Guidara, Reading Library District Youth Services Consultant.