It’s ironic, but social distancing has brought us closer to our libraries than ever before.
Librarians at the South Brunswick Public Library (SBPL), sheltering-in-place and working from home like many during the COVID-19 pandemic, have elected to open their homes to the public, considering the best way, maybe the only way, to stay connected while we are closed.
“It’s been great to see how the community is using our resources and learning what they have discovered while being at home,” said Jill D’Amico, SBPL Head of Information Services. “We have planned a number of virtual events to connect with one another over shared interests and goals. But, we do miss our patrons in-person contact with us at this time.”
The COVID-19 librarian has had to become their own video director and its star entertainer and educator.
Librarians are information specialists, but necessity has pushed them onto a whole new level of tech savvy. They are making and starring in their own home videos for virtual classes, and finding every way possible to reach out and connect to the community.
Children’s librarians led the way after we closed to the public on March 13. Just a few days later, Mr. Matt (Children’s Department Supervisor Matt Kirschner) launched his first YouTube Storytime right from his own living room with his own kids as the “studio audience.”
Soon after children’s virtual programming exploded with more than a dozen different programs (stories, crafts, activities) several times a day, Monday through Friday. Visit the Events Calendar at sbpl.info for a complete schedule.
“I’m proud of the work we’ve done to provide consistency to our patrons,” said ‘Tween Librarian Cindy Ambos, adding, “We offer great programs at SBPL and I’m certain that a large part of that greatness is the people behind them.
“Our love for our patrons shows in everything we do, and these virtual programs are no exception. So when the opportunity came up to make ourselves available to them in this new format, we jumped at the chance.”
In addition to our daily weekday storytime, highlights include a live storytime with a new episode every Friday at 11 a.m., Stories en Espanol, ASL (American Sign Language) Stories & Signs, ‘Tween Tuesday, From the Shelf Classic Stories for all ages (read aloud), Night Owls: Pajama Storytime with Miss Jen, and Stay-at-Home Science with Miss Allyee.
Make no mistake, the SBPL virtual programs may be made at home, but viewers are treated to professional-looking enhancements including green screen technology, animation, live footage, video montages and musical introductions.
The number of views and subscribers to the SBPL YouTube Channel continues to grow since it launched on March 17.
You can also find virtual classes and workshops for ‘tweens, teens and adults. The videos can always be found on the YouTube Channel, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as a few South Brunswick community groups on Facebook.
SBPL launched a Teen Virtual Art Gallery Walk on May 9, showcasing work from the student population. There are also teen-themed short story readings, chats, podcasts, games and viewing parties.
Teen Services recently added Discord, and the Teen Volunteer Association has been meeting virtually. For more details, email email@example.com, look for SBPL Teens on YouTube, view the SBPL Events Calendar, or visit the sbplteens Instagram page.
At first efforts for adults focused on promoting the library’s digital collections and creating tutorials to aid in their use. SBPL offers extensive digital content, including e-books, audiobooks, music, magazines, and streaming movies and television. This existed before the pandemic and has expanded to library card holders.
The librarians then kicked into virtual gear and developed their own videos featuring live poetry and book readings, craft tutorials, Goodreads and live book discussions, even cooking with Dee.
No one on staff is a professional filmmaker or entertainer, everyone had some learning curve to overcome. Teamwork bridged those gaps and SBPL has forged an impressive block of virtual programming for all age groups.
ESL (English as a Second Language) did not miss a beat, setting up online connections with its students almost immediately. Learning a new language requires consistent practice and some students do not have someone at home fluent in English.
Old favorites such as 3D Printing and Resume Workshop can also be found in the cloud now. There are a variety of live, interactive events now, including the 3D Printing Workshop, book discussion groups, and the meeting of the South Brunswick Historical Society.
Be sure to visit the Library’s Events Calendar at sbpl.info to register for an email with the video conference link in order to participate in virtual classes and workshops.
Programs are being planned one a month at a time for now in case of any changes. In May, special events are even offered by groups such as Penn Medicine’s Lactose Intolerance Cooking Workshop. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so look for relaxing options including Virtual Anti-Stress Coloring for Adults and Virtual Music Listening Club.
The SBPL Mobile Branch remains in “park” for the time being, but staff have taken time to personally check in with some of their elderly regular patrons.
Library Director Chris Carbone has been working with libraries and library organizations across the state developing best practices for libraries to reopen safely.
“We are striving to roll out a plan for a consistent, safe, phased-in library operation throughout the state. When we are permitted to reopen to the public, it is anticipated that services will be quite different than when we left the building in March. Most likely there will be social distancing requirements, programs will remain virtual for some time, and things will gradually expand in phases over time,” he said.
No date has yet been set to reopen the building, closed by the Governor’s Executive Order 107, but staff is working to prepare for that day.
The borrowed items return date has been extended to July 1 or until further notice while the building is closed.
The extensive virtual programming the staff has mastered out of necessity will likely shrink some, but it will not disappear. Proven to be popular and convenient for the public, online interaction is here to stay.
A lot of this technology is new territory for many library users. Message any questions through the Ask A Librarian Chat Box on the library’s website. Library cards can be made. Librarians can even walk you through the steps to borrowing your first e-book.
No question is too simple to ask.
We are still here for you.
- This article was submitted by Rosemary Gohd, Publicity/Marketing, South Brunswick Public Library.