Libraries go virtual to continue serving public

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

There’s about to be more activity on the Jasper-Dubois County Public Library’s Facebook accounts.

Starting next week, staff at the four libraries in the system — Birdseye, Dubois, Ferdinand and Jasper — will be taking their programming to the virtual world with daily videos and Zoom book clubs.

“We’ve all picked up and gone with it,” Library Director Christine Golden said of her staff. “We don’t have a choice. We want to bring that content.”

Beginning Monday, the libraries will hold at least one video program at 10 a.m. each weekday via Facebook events. They’ve also assigned each day a theme: Music Mondays; Storytime Tuesdays; Crafting Wednesdays; STEM Thursdays; and Trivia Fridays via Survey Monkey.

“We’re trying to be creative with it,” said Library Experiences Manager Jordan Schuetter.

This coming week, for example, kids can expect a Play-Doh activity for STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — on Thursday, and Legos will be featured in the future.

For now, library staff will be producing and posting the videos, which will be archived on the library’s YouTube channel. But the public can also submit videos. Information on how to do that can be found on the library’s Facebook pages.

Although the programming will be delivered differently, it’s still a lot of the same activities patrons have come to expect, Golden said. One of the most popular programs has been adult craft night. Those crafts will still happen, they’ll just be via video on Wednesdays rather than at the library. Storytimes, too, were a staple before the stay-at-home order, and they continue to be a staple now with librarians reading stories live on the air with WITZ and other local broadcasters and posting a video storytime each Tuesday. And while it’s not the same since the kids aren’t in the same room listening and following along, Golden said, it’s what librarians can do right now. And they want to because they miss seeing patrons.

“The biggest thing that stinks is not seeing people,” Golden said. “I think that’s what kills me most, is knowing there are those people who come to the library every week to check out their materials. They can’t do that right now.”

She and her staff are eager to get back to serving their patrons face-to-face, but they don’t know when that will happen. What they do know is that when they are allowed to return to the buildings, the doors won’t just be thrown open to the public. Reopening will be a phased process. Golden said they’re planning for a multi-stage process that begins with curbside service for people to check out items while programming continues to be offered virtually. Staff also anticipate running the entire summer reading program — one of the most popular events of the library’s year — all online through the BeanStack app the library introduced last year.

“We’re going to try to keep as much consistency as possible,” Golden said. “It’s just going to look different.”

Although reconfiguring the programming for the virtual realm has been difficult, there’s also been good that’s come out of it. Schuetter said he’s seen his co-workers get even more creative to make sure they’re offering quality programs, and Golden said the process has helped unify the staff, despite working at different branches as they’ve worked together more than they usually would. Patrons, too, have started to see the four branches as one library system rather than four separate branches.

Golden and Schuetter emphasized that the libraries are just getting started with the virtual programming. They have several how-to videos, cooking lessons and even a Zoom knitting group in the works. Patrons can check Facebook and the library’s website for up-to-date information on programming. If they don’t see what they want on the schedule, Golden encourages them to reach out.

“I think when this started, we were all very hopeful this was a short-term thing,” Golden said. “But it’s clear that virtual programming will continue whether the library is open or not. It’s only going to get bigger.”




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com