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Presenting Virtual Library Programming in Uncertain Times

Photo of person working on laptop.

Before COVID-19, the Princeton (N.J.) Public Library adult programming team periodically would discuss how we could offer a virtual component to accompany our in-person library programming. Could we livestream our larger events to an overflow space within the library? What would be the best way to record some of our programs and make them available to the public afterwards? These questions were discussed, with varying degrees of urgency, for months.

Science @ Home!

Photo of ingredients used for a science project.

Science @ Home! is a weekly program that demonstrates simple science projects with everyday objects that children can do at home, combined with an explanation of how the science behind the project works. The program debuted on April 6, 2020, and is tentatively scheduled to run through the end of August.

The idea for Science @ Home! came just after the library closed to the public. Staff had filmed a couple of virtual storytimes the day before staff was sent home, so we had about a week of virtual programs ready.

Creativity Crates for Summer Reading

Photo of the inside of the Creativity Crate.

The Reading Creativity Crate program is the socially distanced solution to our summer reading program. Many of our patrons love and rely on summer reading so we knew we had to make it work.

Based on the model for subscription crates, patrons can choose a box according to their age group. The box contains books, craft materials and a variety of resources that cover two weeks of summer reading activities. 

We have five crates to choose from: pre-K, 1st-4th grade, 5th-8th grade, 9th-12th grade and adult.

Dream Careers: Virus Hunter

Photo of a scientist working in lab.

Dream Careers is a teen-initiated, teen-led series designed to increase awareness on a variety of careers choices. The program helps teens research career paths while speaking with a chosen guest.

On May 5 we had our kickoff event via Zoom with virologist Ken Stedman. Dr. Stedman studies viruses found in extreme environments, and the teens wanted to hear from him in light of the pandemic. Our next Dream Careers will be with a chef and restaurant owner.

Virtual Literary Legos

Photo of lego blocks

Virtual Literary Legos is a children's program offered via Zoom. It consists of two sessions: in the first, I read a story, asking the kids to pay particular attention to the visuals and think about something they could create with Legos. We take a break so the children can work on their creations, and then we reconvene for a show-and-tell.

This program incorporates literacy, creativity, meaningful interaction and fun with Legos! Before COVID-19, I ran this program once a month from our library; now I do it twice a month virtually.

Curbside Kids' Activity Kits

Introducing Curbside Kid's Activity Kits

The Kids' Activity Kit program will help our library provide activities and promote learning while we are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are currently six different categories of kits that have been cataloged and circulated in our community.

Each kit comes in a freezer or AV bag and is labeled with items that the patron can keep as well as items that need to be returned. There are craft kits available as well as kits that promote fine motor and important skills for early childhood education.

Virtual Beer Tasting

a flight of beers on a wooden tray

My library planned an online guided tasting of four craft beers led by a local brewmaster. The library hosted the virtual presentation and the brewery provided the program content and the beer flight, which participants could choose to purchase in advance with curbside delivery.

Dear Friend: Quarantine Pen Pal Campaign

The Dear Friend pen pal campaign launched as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We connect quarantined youth with senior citizens in our community through a traditional letter-writing program. The program has been tremendously helpful to provide youth and senior citizens a way to stay active and connected during a tumultuous time for the whole world. 

We had over 100 registrations in the first month and people are still signing up. We hope to continue long after the quarantine ends.

To-Go Crafts

Photo of a person painting in watercolor.

When the library closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I knew that I wanted to interact with patrons in ways that aren’t completely digital or Zoom-based. When the library is open, I organize craft classes, which are especially popular during the summer months. I decided to continue these classes from home.

I needed a way to get supplies to patrons. These "to-go bags" contain all the craft materials they might not have at home, allowing for our library to continue teaching and connecting with them. It’s the closest we can get to our summer in-person programming during this time.

Distance Librarian-ing: the New School Library Normal

A photo of a child drawing a picture titled "Stay home"

As we approach May still in quarantine, we wanted to share how our library programming is continuing to roll along in the midst of the pandemic. We have learned some amazing things about ourselves, our library programming and what our school community needs.

In this blog post, we’ll talk about some of the lessons learned, how our programming is holding up, and what we see as necessary as we continue in this brave new normal.

“I Spy” Windows

Photo of "I Spy" windows

When the pandemic hit, we wanted to let our community know that their library is still physically here. These windows serve as a reminder that, even though we have moved many of our services and programming online, the library will continue with many offerings inside of our building when we are safe and ready.

Tried-and-True Online Tools for School Library Programming

Picture of girl doing schoolwork on a computer.

If you've been on social media lately, you may have seen lists of educational resources offered for free or at minimal cost during the COVID-19 pandemic. These lists can be overwhelming, and many resources may not meet your school district's privacy guidelines. And what happens when the free resources are not free anymore? Can your library support the purchase that your students and teachers have come to rely upon? 

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