Children’s librarian Deni Buendorf got ahead of the game, finalizing plans for summer reading at the Buckham Memorial Library by December 2019.
Six months later, with coronavirus cases still turning up, Buendorf has retained as many aspects of summer programming as possible but shifted everything to an online format. While programming clearly won’t be the same with children and families away from the library, Buendorf still said, “I am excited about this.”
As in previous summers, various entertainers will offer performances for Buckham Memorial Library patrons each Friday. The difference this summer is that families can only access these performances online.
Each scheduled performer chose their own method of presenting their material. Tuey Wilson, comic stunt juggler, chose to share a video from the 2015 performance he did at the library. National yo-yo master Dazzling Dave will also share a pre-recorded performance, but he will also offer a live online workshop for children. Science Tellers will present a live online showing of the story “Dragons: Return of the Ice Sorceress.” Some performers, said Buendorf, are still deciding how they want to present.
Whenever a performance is offered via Zoom, parents need to register their children online so they can access the private link and password. This prevents intruders from accessing the Zoom call and protects families. The latest families can register is the evening prior to performances. To register, email email@example.com.
The downfall of offering online-only performances, said Buendorf, is that families without internet access will miss out on the opportunities. On the other hand, she said some children who never attended the library events in person, because they lived further away, now have easier access to the programming. But to make programming accessible to everyone, she said those without internet access may bring their devices to the library parking and tune into the workshops that way.
“My big hope is by next summer we can resume in-person programming,” said Buendorf. “Assuming that is true, I have asked all the same performers to come back next year to do it all in person. Lots of libraries aren’t doing this … We’re really lucky we can and really lucky all our performers said yes. They feel self conscious about it because it’s not how they prefer to do their performances, either.”
The summer reading program itself essentially follows the same concept as previous years. Young patrons fill out activity sheets by completing tasks and reading books and turn the completed cards in for prizes. But this year, since children can’t visit the library, Buendorf said children can access the sheets online, complete the tasks safely at home or online, and notify the library after they complete their goals. Patrons can register for the program starting Friday morning on the Buckham Memorial Library Facebook page or online at faribault.org/248/Library.
What Buendorft has yet to decide is how children will select their prizes. She ordered thousands of books for children to choose from, but rather than picking out books for each patron, she wants them to have a choice. Where patrons usually picked out their reward of four books right after completing their activity logs, they will now have to wait until the end of the program. Buendorf said she hopes this allows patrons to take their time before making selections.
To access books, patrons can call the library at 507-334-2089 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday to request materials. Patrons may only request items available at the Buckham Memorial Library, which they can search by using the library’s online catalog at selco.ent.sirsi.net/client/en_US/far. Patrons are allowed five items per request.
Hoopla, a new feature, allows patrons access to not only digital reading materials but movies and music as well by using their library card. The system is also unique because patrons won’t need to wait for materials — Buendorf said up to 10 patrons can check out a movie at once.
Normally, Buendorf visits all the schools in Faribault to promote the summer reading program to thousands of children. Instead, she released a YouTube video in which she explains the program and sent it to contacts throughout the local schools. Teachers have shared the video with families to spread the word, and Buendorf also posted the video on the Buckham Memorial Library Facebook page.
“I never dreamed when I was in library school that I would be on the internet,” said Buendorf with a laugh. “… But it’s so important that I can still find ways to connect.”
Buendorf has already tread into the Zoom territory by hosting a virtual story time for families. Few families have participated in the virtual story time, she said, but the small group keeps the experience more intimate and reduces noise. Buendorf suspects a number of families haven’t heard that virtual story time is an option, and others might be fatigued from screen time that comes with distance learning.
While Buendorf has developed alternatives to nearly every aspect of the library’s summer programming, there’s one area she isn’t sure how to continue during the pandemic: Volunteens.
These preteens and teenagers help with a number of physical tasks at the library, whether it’s helping families register for programming or helping entertainers set up their props. About 60 Volunteens sign up for the program each year, and they continue to meet virtually once a month. Buendorf plans to listen to Volunteens’ ideas for staying involved with the library over the summer, if they’re interested.
“It’s really hard to think of everything in a new way,” said Buendorf. “It’s completely opposite of what summer is supposed to be at the library.”