With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing temporary library closures in March and creating an uncertain future, the Volusia County Public Library was faced with a challenge: how to keep children reading and engaged during summer vacation and beyond. The librarians from the children’s and teen sections put on their thinking caps and envisioned a contact-free library system.
They had their work cut out for them. Not only did they have to combat the annual “summer slide” of reading skills loss, they also had to come up with innovative ways to replace traditional face-to-face programs for the coming year. The resourceful librarians developed a multi-pronged, creative plan to reach out to families in their homes.
Little did they know their efforts would land them the gratitude of thousands of parents and a Best Practices Award from the Florida Association of Counties.
The county librarians took full advantage of social media, presenting storytimes and crafts on Facebook Live; creating two new YouTube channels that include educational videos; and starting an Instagram page to post weekly trivia questions, SAT words, and reviews of young adult books. Even the Escape Room went online as teens are asked to answer questions and solve riddles to complete a challenge.
Kindergarten readiness programs, long a priority for the library system, morphed into Fun Fact Friday posts and videos. Library staff also posted summer reading logs online and started handing out “Lit Kits to Go,” customized packages of books, crafts and educational activities based on children’s hobbies and interests. So far, more than 1,600 Lit Kits have been distributed.
The summer food program offered “to go” meals, and libraries started handing out coloring and activity packages that include crossword puzzles, nature walk scavenger hunts and educational worksheets for children and teens.
“Many of the innovative experiences staff developed have proven so popular that we will continue to offer them long after the pandemic is over,” said Library Services Director Lucinda Colee. “Lit kits, virtual programming and online videos are here to stay. I’m very proud of our employees for thinking outside the box.”
Since March 19, the library system has provided more than 300 digital programs with a total attendance of more than 50,000.
Learn more about the Volusia County Public Library at https://volusialibrary.org/.