April 19-25 is National Library Week, and according to an article by the American Library Association, rather than the usual festivities, it is seeking to highlight the ways libraries are offering digital services and resources during the pandemic.
Many libraries closed their doors as the number of COVID-19 cases increased, but that didn’t stop them from supporting their communities. The La Porte County Public Library is no exception. Touting the hashtag “#AtHomeWithLPCPL” on the homepage of its website, the library’s goal is to remain a resource for its community, even during difficult times.
Community Engagement Manager Susan Bannwart and Community Engagement Librarian Jenny Minich began to develop a plan for the library in early March when the virus had begun to spread. It closed to the public later that month, and the library staff began to work from home a week later. They said one of their main focuses was their online presence and ensuring accessibility for the community.
“We needed to focus on making sure that people knew how to access these online resources,” Bannwart said.
Whether they are educating individuals about online resources, offering a virtual learning space for students, or providing e-books to entertain the community while they’re stuck at home, libraries like La Porte County Public Library are ensuring they are still providing their patrons with the resources they need.
With limits placed on group gatherings, the library had to get creative with the ways they developed programming. They have hosted webinars to teach educators about how to use online resources; developed educational videos about topics like caring for dairy goats or creating a bluebird nesting box; and fostered virtual book clubs for families or individual adults.
However, Bannwart said one of their most successful programs is “6 Tips at 6.” In this program, the library conducts 30-minute Zoom sessions at 6 p.m. every Tuesday night to offer tips on how to access the library’s resources while it’s closed.
La Porte County Public Library has been highly involved with schools and outreach, so Minich said it was important to support the schools to make sure they had access to their accounts for databases, e-books, and other necessary resources.
“Our school partners are having to experience the same things we are,” Minich said. “In some ways, we’ve been able to provide a really valuable service.”
The library has also had to make some difficult decisions when it comes to annual programming. The library offers a STEAM summer camp every year, and Minich said it has continued to grow each summer. This year, they had planned for something even bigger than the previous year, Minich said. However, the camp will likely not be able to meet in-person.
Because of this, Minich and Bannwart said they are planning for virtual alternatives for the camp. They are considering providing students with kits where they can still have meaningful learning experiences with coding and robotics through a virtual Zoom format, despite not being able to engage in the in-person camp.
Although this year’s National Library Week celebrations will be virtual, there’s never been a better time to support your local library. For more information about what La Porte County Public Library is doing, check out their digital resources here.