Regional librarians have been working hard on new ways to keep the community entertained during lockdown.
Sheryl Tilley, manager, library services for the Region of Waterloo Library says operating during the lockdown presented a challenge — one they were determined to meet.
“Not being able to open our doors has made us find new and imaginative ways to maintain service levels, improve access and convenience with a little less funding,” Tilley said.
After the lockdown was announced on Dec. 26th, libraries were forced to shut their doors; but like many organizations they moved their programming online and even increased offerings to help those stuck inside find community connections.
Families have been able to participate in free programs like online story times and Lego challenges. While kids, tweens and teens can take part in crafting, trivia and “maker” tech challenges online each week.
For those with children learning to read, the library has offered the cutest of online story companions. “Read to a Dog” gives kids a 15-minute time-slot to practice their reading skills and share their favourite story with a well-trained puppy over Zoom.
Adults get their own craft nights too, joining library staff in learning how to make something new or working on your current project while chatting with a small group over Zoom.
If you’re struggling to learn how to download books, movies and music, or just learning how to use Zoom, librarians have been coming to the rescue, offering online tech sessions designed to help familiarize people with the technology that’s quickly becoming a part of everyday life at home.
Even as the lockdown eases, continued restrictions on indoor public gatherings may keep library-run activities in an online or hybrid model.
“We are working hard to help our community to stay home, stay safe, and stay connected,” Tilley said.
One of the biggest challenges for local libraries has not just been creating programming, but getting the required technology into the hands of those wanting access to their services.
“We’re focusing our services and resources on what the community needs and wants most, like access to high-speed internet and internet hotspots even when the library branches are closed to the public,” said Tilley.
Just like books, customers can still check out mobile internet hotspots, board games and even video game consoles by booking them in advance and using curb side pickup. Tilley says returns of these items must be booked in advance as well, as they’re too big and sensitive to be returned through the drop-box.
Books are available through curb side pickup as well, and can be reserved online or by phone, but those worried about that book stuck under their bed can take a deep breath. For right now, over-due fines are a thing of the past.
The Kitchener Public Library made the announcement this month that they were permanently eliminating overdue fines as a way to help eliminate barriers people face when access library services.
While that library has joined a growing number going fine-free, Tilley says regional branches haven’t made the leap just yet.
“We are currently looking into multiple solutions that will enhance the free exchange of library materials into the waiting hands of our rural citizens,” she said.
Other lockdown library services include the Ask a Librarian feature, which allows residents to call in with questions, a book recommendation service to help you find your next great read and even access to online TV programming.
“To access any or all of these services, all you need is your Region of Waterloo library card,” says Tilley.
For more information or to apply for a library card visit rwlibrary.ca or call 226-748-8030.
Written by Elizabeth Bate