WESTLOCK – YouTube and Facebook have made great pandemic partners for the Westlock Municipal Library, where staff continue to run programming for kids remotely.
“We knew that the community needed us, quite frankly,” said library director Lisa Old, “And would miss seeing us,” added librarian Michelle Hartman, both over the phone from the library.
For the past two weeks, the programming that was originally scheduled to take place in-person was turned into an online-only event, broadcast via social media.
The staff took things like the Lego challenge, a scavenger hunt, and the puppet show that was supposed to run at the library March 25 and put them in video format, inviting live participation and continuous interaction between staff and the kids that usually show up in non-pandemic times.
They’ve been doing that, with the Lego challenge for example, by asking kids or their parents to send back photos of how their own projects turned out.
“The Lego challenge, I’m sure that there’s more people doing them at home than are submitting their pictures, but the ones that are doing it are having a great time. I am personally receiving messages on Facebook from some of our patrons about how much fun it is,” said Hartman.
For Old, the changeover was relatively easy. It was a matter of recording everything, not a complete programmatic reinvention, and posting it — they also recently opened a YouTube channel.
“I think what we’re doing now is really thinking about how we can do something different and be more online-friendly, more engaging to our customers in a very different way. Ultimately, it’s the same, you’re reaching out to people,” said Old.
These programs typically get regular participants and Hartman knows their names. To provide continuity, she called them out in one of the videos.
For the staff, however, it’s not just about the “devoted customers,” it’s also about attracting and connecting with new people. In the works, Hartman says, is personal story time via Facebook video-calling.
“Lots of our pre-school children, this is where they met their friends. That would be a little bit more personal,” said Hartman.
It’s also a way to keep the larger community impact the library has from fading with physical distancing.
“As long as nobody shuts us down, we’re going to continue and probably amp it up a little bit more. The ideas are flowing, we’re learning about things like the green screen, it’s giving our staff opportunities to engage in different ways and learn, a lot of professional development happening,” said Old.
Although these types of programs are more kid-friendly, e-resources at the library are still available. Staff are still there, taking in new applications or card renewals online.
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