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A COVID Programming Reflection

In my career, I have worn many hats and have been in my current position as an outreach librarian for the last nine years.  My job, which had consisted of being in outreach locations, connecting with children at school sites and daycares, participating in community events, and hosting library events to bring the public into the library, changed abruptly in March 2020 to being restricted to my library and in-person programming ceasing. Nothing could have prepared me for the changes and challenges that I and the field of librarianship would face during the COVID pandemic. A new approach, an outside-the-box approach, was needed to fulfill the needs of our patrons and their children. 

This, of course, is not a new story to many librarians or libraries because we all faced the same dilemmas on how to offer programming in a COVID world.  We had to find ways to provide programming that would allow for safe distancing that would keep both the staff and the patrons healthy. This blog post is a reflection back at the approaches to programming from libraries across the United States during this time period.  

Storytime went virtual for most libraries with the blessing of publishers and included craft kits to make at home or it moved outside of the library altogether into a fresh air area with ample space. In our library, we maintained our outreach partnerships by delivering craft kits to our outreach locations. Libraries across the country participated in “Bear Hunts” to uplift children’s spirits and simply bring a smile to their adults during the beginning of COVID.  Summer reading had to be repackaged to fit a virtual audience or limited attendance enforced, reading logs went digital with the use of applications like Beanstack, and performers were seen via Zoom and YouTube. New venues were pursued to allow for safe distancing–parks, community centers, larger meeting rooms, and curbside pick-ups became the “new” normal. Outreach went to places other than schools, daycares, and doctor’s offices. Laundromats were a new place for outreach as seen in the article, Soap, Suds, and Stories by Elizabeth McChesney and Marisa Conner found in Children and Libraries, Winter 2020. Some of these changes ended up being for the best and were adopted in our new post-COVID world.  This showed that librarians can really think on their feet to still connect to children, connect children to books, and offer early literacy programming. 

Although the COVID pandemic challenged libraries in a plethora of ways, it is safe to say that libraries as a whole were resilient and embraced a new reality that changed how this field operated. This is something that libraries should be proud of wholeheartedly and while the current atmosphere in libraries is challenging at the moment across the country with book bans and the changing of libraries into behavioral centers, we need to look back and reflect on the last challenging times we faced to know that libraries will weather this storm as well. 


Today’s blog post was written by Elizabeth Ibarra Gaylor, Literacy & Outreach Librarian at the Ardmore Public Library in Ardmore, Oklahoma, on behalf of the ALSC Early and Family Literacy Committee. She can be reached at egaylor@ardmorelibary.org.

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