South Shore Libraries Creatively Cure Pandemic Boredom
Every Wednesday at 10 a.m., Children’s Librarian June Thammasnong sets up her storytime space at the Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy. She logs into Zoom and begins to let the enthusiastic kids into the virtual room, greeting them by name with a smile on her face.
After the library – and dozens of others on the South Shore – had to abruptly close in March due to COVID-19 restrictions, staff had to switch to an exclusively online programming format, which ultimately included hours of virtual stories and other activities such as yoga, cooking. , book clubs, games, history lectures and trivia contests. Throughout the pandemic, local libraries have been vital and visible, helping South Shore residents stay connected, engaged and entertained.
“It was an interesting adventure,” said Megan Allen, director of the Thomas Crane library. “We have learned a lot along the way. One of the things we’ve learned is that in some ways, even though we don’t have the in-person connection that we have with people, our programs are actually more accessible to people because we’re not limited. by the number of people who can participate in the meeting. the room or the room of the story. ”
Although attendance took a long time to build and a certain technological snafus had to be worked out early on, the library is now welcoming around 70 children for its virtual story time. They connect from all over the United States and internationally – from Halifax, Nova Scotia, the United Kingdom and other South Shore cities like Braintree and Rockland, said Thammasnong, the one of Thomas Crane’s six children’s librarians. The library holds these storytelling hours almost every day of the week. Registration is optional and parents can connect their children wherever they are.
While it was initially a challenge to figure out how to keep children engaged virtually, Thammasnong said it had “completely changed the game” in many ways, allowing the library to serve the community in Quincy and around the world.
Virtual programming is not without its drawbacks. Not everyone has access to the internet, Thammasnong said, and keeping kids engaged practically has its challenges, sometimes causing kids to be muted online so everyone can hear the librarian.
The hours of in-person storytelling had a natural energy, she said. The children were jumping and singing. Virtual storytelling hours require more preparation.
“I never felt like a performer, but I feel like I have to put a lot more effort into this now,” Thammasnong said. “Everything has to be intentional about how it will appear on screen.”
Attendance at virtual adult programs at the Milton Public Library is three times higher than before the pandemic. It took a while for the Reference Office to teach people how to use Zoom and access eBooks, but once people got the hang of it, the library started to thrive.
“What we’ve found is that the virtual often works best since most of our adult shows take place at night,” said Sara Truog, deputy director of the Milton Public Library. “Before, people maybe didn’t want to drive in the dark or weren’t sure they had time to adjust, and now they can just zoom right in from their homes.”
This success also extends to the many children’s programs that the Milton Public Library still offers, such as story time, a writing club, a Lego club and crafts. But Truog said she was very proud of her Super Popular Unbelievable Book Club, or SPUB Club, where she reads a chapter book and the kids then do a hands-on activity.
“We had this book club before and I would say about 10 kids, maybe, came in every week,” Truog said. “It was fun and it was great, but we started offering it on Zoom, when the pandemic started, and I have 25 kids coming to this book club every Monday night. It’s amazing. So we’ve found that some things are actually virtually better. “
Truog attributes the success to its librarians, who it says are expert programmers and have been creative in delivering the programs children, teens and adults would love.
“A lot of us got into librarianship because we love talking to people and being with them, and not being able to meet people in person is not what we want. We love having people here, ”Truog said. “But if we can’t have people here, to protect us all, I would say we’ve found some great alternatives.”
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Thayer’s public library adult programs, such as the Writers’ Group, Trivia Nights, and Genealogy Club, are popular virtual offerings. After fixing a few issues and using an e-book platform called Hoopla, which allows multiple clients to read or listen to the same book at the same time, book clubs were able to get back on their feet, says broadcast librarian Laurie. Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh hosts the Good Taste Book Club, where she and other patrons read the same cookbook and each chooses a recipe to prepare and share with the club. The club now meets virtually.
“Everyone always prepares a dish from the cookbook, if they want to. It’s more optional now because you’re not going to share it with anyone, ”Cavanaugh said. “But you could still come in to hear what other people’s cooking experiences were like. We’re still talking about the cookbook, what we liked, what we did with the recipes, how this recipe works. So it was very popular. “
Virtual programming at the Turner Free Library in Randolph has been of benefit to clients as its approximately 70 programs are “asynchronous,” said Sharon Parrington Wright, director of the library. Because the virtual programs are recorded, customers can watch them at any time.
While they can get anywhere from two to 10 people to watch live, they receive dozens of views online within a day or two of posting to social media, Wright said.
“I think with everyone’s schedule in such a state of flux, being able to participate in story time, really whenever you want, was a real draw,” Wright said.
The library lends access points and laptops and has Wi-Fi for people who want to park outside the library, she said.
When Thayer Library Children’s Librarian Elisabeth Strachan noticed that children were not signing up for story time and other programs, she got creative. She launched Take and Make, where families can come every Wednesday to Thayer to pick up this week’s themed crafts, and Quick Pick, where parents give Strachan their library card number and a category and she comes to their car with a pack of books to take away. home.
“It’s a tough time for parents and kids, so we’re trying to do what we think they’re going to do,” Strachan said.
While these programs are popular, they don’t allow the interaction that Strachan and the other librarians miss. Hours of virtual stories help fill that void.
“We can see everyone’s faces and hear their voices,” Strachan said. “Oh, I miss that! If we do a song like “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” everybody is applauding, and just to see them do it, it’s so wonderful. One girl said, “Oh, you wanna see my dog?” and she’s just excited to talk to someone.
When the weather starts to heat up, Strachan said she was excited to make a fuss outside, as she did in the fall.
Librarians at Thomas Crane Public Library also plan outdoor activities, Allen said, including concerts, children’s programs and story walks where children can travel from branch to branch or through the parks. local.
They are also considering the return of in-person programming, Allen said. Even when that happens, they will still continue digital programming.
At Randolph’s Turner Free Library, 70% of customers indicated in a survey that they want virtual programming to continue in some form or another, Wright said.
The Milton Public Library is also planning hybrid programs due to the uncertainty of the pandemic. He is launching a year-long initiative in March called “Milton Moves,” an exercise challenge to encourage residents to lead healthy, active lives.
“This is our biggest response to the pandemic right now, trying to help people get back to their physical lives,” Truog said.
Five online offers
- “Great books you might have missed!” 2020 ”, 11 am to 12:30 pm, February 27, Hingham Public Library. Register at hinghamlibrary.org.
- “The Orphan Train Movement: History and Legacy,” 7 to 8 pm, February 25, Milton Public Library. Register at miltonlibrary.org.
- “The Historic Significance of St. Patrick,” 7 to 8:30 p.m., March 9, Thomas Crane Public Library. Register at thomascranelibrary.org.
- “The New Normal New England Road Trip with Ted Reinstein,” 7-8pm, March 10, Pembroke Public Library. Register at pembrokepubliclibrary.org.
- “Conscious Yoga for All with Paula McCree”, 6 pm to 7 pm March 2. Register at hinghamlibrary.org.
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