Summer reading kicks off at local libraries


Some summer events have been canceled, but one summer staple is still on: summer reading at the local library.

Both the Huntingburg Public Library and Jasper-Dubois County Public Library — which includes the Birdseye, Dubois, Ferdinand and Jasper branches — kicked off the annual summer learning programs June 1, although the events will run differently this year.

“We got a lot of questions [during the closure] about if we were still doing it,” said Christine Golden, director of the JDCPL. “We all said of course we want to still do it.”

Huntingburg Library Director Lisa McWilliams and her staff felt the same way.

But doing a summer learning program in the era of COVID-19 required librarians to rethink how the annual literacy event would operate. Programming like Silly Safaris animal shows that bring large groups of patrons into the library buildings can’t happen this year due to social distancing, and neither library was open to the public yet on June 1.

This year, much of the summer learning programming will take place virtually.

“We are just going to have to be flexible,” McWilliams said.

Huntingburg Library patrons can pick up their summer reading log in the library — which opened to the public this week — then check out the library’s Facebook page for virtual storytimes and craft videos. The library will also have grab-and-go crafts available. McWilliams and her staff are hopeful they will be able to offer some in-person programs toward the end of the summer learning program, which runs until July 31.

Patrons of JDCPL’s four branches can stop by their branch to pick up a paper reading log during curbside pickup hours or complete the log online through Beanstack, an online reading program management program. Instructions for how to use Beanstack can be found on the library’s website,

In addition to the reading portion of the program, the library system has also added activities that can count toward completing the program and provide entrance into prize drawings. The activities include writing a thank-you note to one of the summer learning program’s sponsors, taking a walk with family or visiting a local park. All the activities can be completed safely and according to COVID-19 precautions.

“We wanted to make our program more than just reading because the library offers more than just books,” Golden said.

JDCPL staff will also post virtual programs to the library’s branch Facebook pages and YouTube channel. They also added a community giveback section to the program. If participants read a total of at least 2,500 books, the library will donate a total of $2,500 to the schools in the communities it serves.

The library system plans to reopen to the public in some capacity June 15.

Those who complete the summer learning program at either library will be entered to win individual prizes. At Huntingburg Library, participants must read a total of five books to be entered into the prize drawing, with additional books read garnering additional incentives. Prices include a Kindle Fire, an Echo Dot and a Walmart gift card. Winners of the prize drawing at JDCPL will take home a $50 gift card to a local business of their choosing.

Although both libraries expect participation to be down this year, Golden and McWilliams said they’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of participants in the first two weeks. About 170 participants have signed up for JDCPL’s program on Beanstack, with about as many others picking up paper reading logs. So far, those roughly 340 participants have read one-third of the books needed to reach the community giveback goal of 2,500.

Usually, JDCPL has about 1,200 patrons who complete the program.

At the Huntingburg Library, McWilliams said that although the number of participants so far is down from last year, there has been a steady stream of patrons in the library picking up reading logs.

Golden and McWilliams both said they understand people’s hesitation to visit the library right now, but they still encourage participation in the event through curbside pickup of reading materials or through the virtual programming. Both libraries have schedules jampacked with activities that can be done with social distancing and virtual programming, and the library staff is available to help them find books and other materials they’ll enjoy.

“Just keep reading,” McWilliams said. “It’s going to be a fun summer.”

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