Library programming during the pandemic

Library programming is not an easy task, especially during a pandemic.  From coast to coast, libraries have done an enormous public service throughout the COVID-19 crisis.  We have seen libraries pivot quickly, adjusting priorities and adapting programs in the face of a global pandemic.  Not only have libraries provided critical services like internet access to their communities, but they have also proven themselves beacons of hope, unity and creativity at a time when these virtues are most needed.  Here are just a few of their stories.

Weymouth Public Library’s book match program

BookMatch library program logo. Personalized reading recommendations from real life librarians.

Source: https://www.weymouth.ma.us/reader-services/webforms/bookmatch

Through BookMatch, readers receive personalized reading list recommendations from librarians at Weymouth Public Library in Massachusetts.  Just fill out a quick form about your recent reads and reading preferences, and a librarian compiles a list of books and authors for you to try next.  This method fills a crucial gap caused by the health crisis, when browsing the shelves in-person is not always possible.  In addition, keeping a running reading list may be beneficial to mental health, as books can provide a healthy escape for many people who are stuck at home for prolonged periods.  And, the BookMatch program helps expand access to library materials for blind and visually impaired book lovers.  Way to go, WPL!

LA Public Library’s crowd-sourced pandemic archive

On the west coast, the Los Angeles public library is compiling a community archive of the diverse experiences of LA residents during the pandemic.  Any Los Angeles resident can submit digital materials including photos, correspondence, journal entries, blog posts, social media samplings, signage, and artwork.  The goal is to create a compassionate, comprehensive, and compelling account of this moment in history from all walks of life.  From students to teachers to parents and essential workers, stories are curated and made available to the public through an online special collections portal, which will in time provide crucial source material for future researchers and historians.  Submissions are being accepted through May 1.

Pandemic archive submission (example of library programming during the pandemic)

A submission to the LAPL’s community archive by Rachel Torrey. (Photo source: Los Angeles Times)

Library programming reaches out to seniors

Senior adult reading a book. Library programming such as outreach programs have made books available to those stuck at home during the pandemic.

During the pandemic, many libraries have proactively reached out to vulnerable community members, especially those who may be feeling isolated, like senior citizens.  One such library is the St. Charles Public Library in St. Charles, Illinois.  The library offers outreach services to senior housing residents, nursing homes, and those living at home with special circumstances, such as vision loss or limited mobility.  Through this program, participants gain access to all circulating materials, even if they are not able to visit the library in person.  Outreach librarians help select materials, register for library cards, and mail or hand-deliver materials.  The program, which is free-of-charge, also provides other vital services, such as voter registration and training on the library’s electronic resources.

Additional resources

For libraries

Outreach programs like the one in St. Charles are great examples of accessible library programming.  One simple, straightforward, and affordable way to expand library access is through assistive technology.  Portable devices such as the Luna S or Compact 10 HD Speech can be put into circulation for patrons to use at home, either by checking them out directly on-site, or through home delivery services.  Desktop magnifiers like the ClearView C Speech are another great option for libraries, allowing for more equitable use of materials for all patrons, regardless of their level of vision.  What’s more, recent legislation has allocated significant funding for library programming across the nation.  For an in-depth look at how to build a more accessible library, check out our 6 step guide.

For bookworms

If you are the beneficiary of an outreach program at your local library such as the one offered in St. Charles, you may be interested in assistive devices that can simplify and enhance your reading experience.  Here are a few options to consider:

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Pandemic library programming: wrap-up

We know we’ve only scratched the surface of the multitude of creative programs engineered by libraries nationwide to help community members cope during the pandemic.  If you are a librarian or library lover and know of another such program, we want to hear from you.  Please leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Author Information

By Bethany Wyshak. Reviewed by Stuart Flom.

A lighting industry specialist, Stu Flom worked at Dolan-Jenner, a leader in fiberoptic lighting, for 15 years before launching his own company in 1994. As product manager, Stu helped find lighting solutions for clients in such diverse areas as photography, microscopy, robotics and automotive manufacturing. He was also involved in supplying the fiberoptics illuminating the Hope Diamond exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. A member of the International Society for Optics & Photonics (SPIE), Stu was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and is the author of several publications, including Integrating Optical Fibers in Machine Vision (Proceedings), Designing Fiber Optic Lighting for Machine Vision (Society of Manufacturing Engineers), and Light Up with Fiber Optics (Vision). Prior to his work in lighting, Stu was a special education teacher. Stu’s expertise in lighting and background in education form the backbone of his company. As AdaptiVision’s founder and president, Stu is dedicated to applying advanced lighting technology to assist people struggling with low vision, teaching them how to use technology to achieve greater independence.

Sources

American Libraries Magazine. (2021, March 23). Call Number Podcast: Supporting Seniors during the Pandemic. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/call-number-podcast-supporting-seniors-during-the-pandemic/

Lelyveld, N. (2021, February 6). L.A. Public Library archives COVID stories for future study. Los Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-02-06/la-public-library-pandemic-archive-seeks-submissions

Los Angeles Public Library. (n.d.). LA COVID-19 Community Archive (formerly the Safer at Home Archive) | Los Angeles Public Library. Retrieved April 13, 2021, from https://lapl.org/covid-archive

St. Charles Public Library. (n.d.). About Outreach | St. Charles Public Library. Retrieved April 13, 2021, from https://www.scpld.org/about-outreach

Weymouth Public Libraries. (n.d.). BookMatch | Weymouth MA. Town of Weymouth. Retrieved April 13, 2021, from https://www.weymouth.ma.us/reader-services/webforms/bookmatch

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