Bridie Murphy faithfully attends story time with Ms. B at the Palos Park Public Library. She listens to the welcome song, looks at all the pictures, and knows when to say goodbye. With the implementation of social distancing regulations, story time looks a little different now. Rather than joining other children in the library, she watches Ms. B on the computer surrounded by her stuffed animals. The location has changed but the heart behind library programs has not.
Libraries have quickly adapted to the situation at hand. Stacks of books lay in quarantine waiting patiently to be checked out, scores of holds are placed by voracious readers, and the clang of the book drop rings in the air. To try and maintain a sense of normalcy, many in-person programs have been switched to virtual events. For Palos Park Library staff members, building a sense of community and getting people off of their screens is also a priority. Staff member Genesis Darwent designed a series of take and make kits such as candy sushi, DIY kites, and succulent gardens. Once registered, patrons pick up supplies and craft from home. These low-tech activities have proved popular, with patrons clamoring to secure their kit. Other summer activities that cater to remote participation include yoga, Tai Chi, a virtual summer camp, and a seed library.
One popular activity has been the scavenger hunt. Participants are led to different Palos Park locations by answering riddles and clues. Once they have reached the location they take a picture as proof. Staff members report the whole family is getting involved. All ages try their hand at the ciphers, rhymes, and Rebus puzzles. Overheard in the library, one mother advised her children to enlist the help of grandpa to decode the Morse code message. These riddles, crafts, meditation sessions, and undoubtedly the books have one purpose. Staff member Bonnie Triezenberg describes it as “...to enhance their life, their reading, and to remain a vital part of the community”. Through all the trivia nights, craft kits, and story times the core message remains: to serve and support the community in any way possible.
Some libraries have reopened while others remain closed to the public. As of July, the Palos Park Public Library has allowed a fixed number of people to browse and enter the library with masks and safety precautions. It is a welcome change from the months of working in a silent building. “That is the fun of working in a library: the human interaction” Triezenberg says. The reopening plans of many public buildings constantly fluctuate, but there is hope. As fall encroaches on the long summer nights, the future is uncertain. Yet, the library’s role in the community is definite.
Our guest blogger today is Emily Hampston. Emily is the Head of Adult Programs at Palos Park Public Library. Emily's post is also shared as a story on the My Library Is... Sharing Showcase.