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Lets Talk: Finding the Balance While Reopening During Summer Reading

For the past year or so, libraries around our country have either been closed completely or opened with lower capacity and hours. Now libraries are reopening with limited capacity and hours while other libraries find themselves opening at 100%. Although we are all looking forward to reopening and seeing the little faces lined up for reading logs and arms filled with books, librarians are scrambling to adjust summer programming that was already set for the virtual scene. This includes reading logs online, virtual programs and events, and books reserved online for pick up — no browsing the isles. How do we find a balance in such a rushed environment of reopening?

In my local community, we have different library systems and all systems have been faced with the task of reopening. Patrons are excited about our reopening and want to browse and attend in-person events. As we created our summer reading program, we contracted performers for summer as virtual events. Since many of our summer reading programs have started, we have decided to keep the program virtual, with a few adjustments. Three of the local library systems have decided to create summer reading program kits to go. These kits are known as “Take & Make” (Thousand Oaks Library/Newbury Park Library), “Grab & Go” (Calabasas Library), and “Summer Craft Kit” (Simi Valley Library). Patrons sign up online, come to the library and pick up bags each week, and watch performances and events online. This is only one aspect of trying to find that balance of reopening and making the environment safe for all.

As we reopen, especially at the beginning of the summer reading program, finding that balance has been challenging. All three libraries have opened to reduced hours, limited capacity, and limited time in which a patron can be in the library, while still offering drive-up pickups or even locker pickups (Newbury Park). However, some patrons are not happy that we are not back at 100%, that masks are required (especially for children), and that they are limited in the time they can spend in the library. Yet, we have those who think we are opening too soon.

Let’s talk!!! What balances has your library worked out?

  • Have you been open for the past year or are you just starting to reopen?
  • Have you had to adjust your summer reading program? How, and how rushed was it?
  • What adjustments did your library make for programs and events? Are your events in person, online, or a little of both?
  • If programs and events are in-person, how are you keeping social distance between families?  Are you using hula hoops, kiddy pools, or sticks with tape around them?
  • If programs and events are in-person, and everyone is social distancing, what equipment are you using that will allow everyone to see and hear this event?
  • Are your programs and events inside or outside? If outside, how are patrons protected from sun and heat? Do you provide shade, water, or snacks?
  • Did you have to purchase new equipment and supplies? If so, was the cost of the equipment/supplies built into your summer budget, or did you need to seek out grants or other funding for these supplies?
  • Are children coming to the library each week to get a “kit” to go or is everything still online only? Are children able to browse the isles or do they need to reserve books?
  • Are weekly prizes available or are prizes only available at the end of the summer reading program?
  • What new ideas and processes have you learned over the past year that you will be incorporated as you reopen?

The libraries in my community have tried to find that balance where children can come into the library, pick up reading logs and bags, pick their own reading materials while watching events, programs, and storytime online. Figuring out the small details has many librarians rushed and stressed. However, going forward we now have the experience of adjusting summer programs and events. Sharing your experience will help all librarians know they are not alone and will give insight into what is possible. As we move forward, we know that future programs will be in-person and filmed live for patrons to watch virtually. For now, patrons will be able to get reading logs and books in-person, while watching events online. Creating that balance while reopening, will make our patrons feel safe and welcome in our community libraries.

City of Calabasas, California. Calabasas Library at Calabasas, https://www.cityofcalabasas.com/government/library. Accessed 09 June 2021.

City of Thousand Oaks Library. Grant R. Brimhall Library and Newbury Park Library at Thousand Oaks, https://www.tolibrary.org/. Accessed 09 June 2021.

Simi Valley Public Library. Simi Valley Public Library at Simi Valley, https://simivalleylibrary.org/. Accessed 09 June 2021.

Today’s blog post was written by Kerrie Mierop, Librarian at Calabasas Library (CA) on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee.

This blog relates to ALSC core competencies of I. Commitment to Client Group and III. Programming Skills.

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