FAIR LAWN, NJ - With families across New Jersey ordered to stay home during the coronavirus crisis, the Fair Lawn Maurice M. Pine Public Library has launched several online programs and activities to keep its patrons informed, educated and entertained.
All libraries in New Jersey are shut indefinitely, as per a March 21 order by Gov. Phil Murphy, who said, “I know libraries are a critical part of the fabric of our communities, but we must slow the spread of COVID-19.”
In the wake of the closures, a growing number of libraries are trying to find new ways to connect with the communities they serve the best they can right now. For most, that means turning to the internet and running some programs virtually.
Over the past few weeks, Fair Lawn Library Director Adele Puccio said she and her staff have been experimenting with a few kinds of online offerings.
The library has long provided access for cardholders to digital collections featuring e-books, e-magazines, videos and music, 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Click here for more information about e-collections.
But, during such uncertain times, Puccio said it was important to stay engaged with the community and provide some sense of continuity however they could.
Now, the library has several videos (available on its YouTube channel and Facebook page) featuring children’s story time, a family paint night, arts and crafts classes, yoga and meditation. They are also encouraging kids in grades three through six to participate in an online writing challenge this month.
Soon, book club meetings for children, teens and adults will be held via Zoom, an online video conference platform, she said.
“When the closure happened, we all looked at each other and wondering how we’d transition. We’re kind of taking this by the seat of our pants,” she said.
“We love being there for people right now,” Puccio said. “The response we’ve gotten so far has been really positive. We have a very, very grateful audience. They are interacting with us and sending us messages. Fair Lawn is a great community.”
Staffers are also using the library's Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, as well as website, to provide program updates, share interesting links and photos and interact. There’s also a newsletter, which you can sign up for by clicking here.
One of the best parts, she said, is being able to continue offering some children’s programming.
“For kids, it keeps a sense of continuity because they get to see familiar faces,” Puccio said. “It’s something positive.”
Unfortunately, Puccio said, “There’s still a segment we can’t reach because they may not have access to technology.” And, for those patrons, Puccio said they aren’t sure if they can safely deliver books to them.
“We’re so afraid about transmitting the virus. We don’t want to be irresponsible,” she said.
For the duration of the closure, late fines are waived and all books will be automatically renewed. And, people who don’t have library cards can apply for one online, which will allow them to have access to digital content. Previously, signing up for a card needed to be done in person, Puccio said.
Once the COVID-19 crisis wanes and the library can reopen, Puccio said staff may continue to offer some programs virtually, such as craft classes or recordings of concert performances.
“Or, we might do an online book discussion group, which may be a good option for someone who is feeling sick or doesn’t have transportation to the library,” she said.
But for now, she said, "We're tryimng as best as we can!"
"We miss our patrons, though," she said. "With many of them, we’re used to seeing them every day.”