Blogger Alexa Newman

Pivot, and Pivot Again: How Do We Best Serve Patrons in the Constantly Changing Pandemic Landscape?

Preparing for the start of the 2020-2021 school year has been one of the most, shall we say, unusual experiences for libraries in generations. Would schools be opening in person or e-learning or a hybrid version? Would families have options? Would there be an uptick in homeschooling? Many, if not all of us, have had to grapple with this situation.

My library serves four school districts as well as several parochial and private schools. We spent much of the late spring and summer trying to plan for each contingency, since there were so many unknowns.

As late as the end of July, all of our districts were planning to offer families a choice between attending school in person or e-learning. The parochial schools had already decided to hold school in person. When Covid-19 positivity rates started to climb, one by one, our districts decided to move exclusively to e-learning. With only two weeks before classes started, the final district opted to move to e-learning.

You might be thinking, why explain all of this? Well, I am trying to set the scene: We were preparing for the kids to go back to school in the physical buildings. When the decisions came down for remote learning we had to pivot. Parents, caregivers, and teachers are reaching out to us for curriculum support.

We produced a homeschooling webinar; created a remote learning resource page; subscribed to new databases; and added more materials to our Parent Teacher Collection and Homework Center. Adding the books, databases, and other curriculum materials caused us to rearrange our materials budget.

Parents and caregivers have also come to us for supplemental education opportunities for their children. With so many extracurricular activities cancelled for the year, families are searching for options.

We created take home learning and discovery kits, which is our version of programming reinvented. Because the library cannot offer in person programming, our early literacy educators, school age programmers, and librarians have been creating a variety of to-go programs. These cover a range of topics from kindergarten readiness to STEM experiments, art projects to book discussions. In each case, patrons get all of the materials they need to complete the unit or activity. Other new programs include a Family Nature Club, and guitar and ukulele lessons. We are producing YouTube videos to replace our outreach visits as well as in-house storytimes. There have been some great suggestions made in previous blog posts, most recently by Abby Johnson, please check them out for ideas on best practices and more.

My library is open to the public, but with reduced hours and services. We are not offering any in-house programming for at least the next three months. We are continuing to look for new and better ways to support our patrons and community during these unprecedented times. Once schools re-open we will be ready to pivot once again.

Whether you are serving communities where schools are in session in person or virtually, know we are all going through this together. Hopefully, by collaborating with each other we can find ways to bridge any gaps and meet the needs of our communities.

Be well, everyone, and keep sharing the great ideas!

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