LIVINGSTON, NJ — As the world slowly begins to open back up after facing a year of heavy restrictions, Livingston residents are reflecting on some of the things that helped get them through the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, coping with the quarantine required outside help, which the Livingston Public Library (LPL) has been commended for providing on many levels despite being closed to the public for many months and continuing to be restricted in its on-site services today.

In order to shed light on the services that the library has provided over the last year, former LPL Youth Librarian Gina Marie Vaccaro—who is known lovingly in the community as “Miss Gina” and has since been named Head of Youth Services at LPL—recently created a video compilation of Livingston residents who shared the many ways in which the library has supported them throughout the pandemic.

“The idea of creating a video came to me after I began hearing over and over how grateful the community was that the library continued to offer programs and services throughout the pandemic,” said Vaccaro. “People thanked me all day and told me that visiting the library was a lifeline for them—one of the few places that they could actually go.”

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Encouraged by the knowledge that the LPL was “helping people regain some normalcy into their lives,” Vaccaro felt a need to spread the word to others who have not been taking advantage of the library programs.

“I put the call out to the entire community, children included, to record and send in a short video, 10 seconds or less, of how the library has helped them during the pandemic,” said Vaccaro, adding that she wants people to know that LPL services are still available despite recent changes and that the library offers great escapes from the current, unpredictable reality of the pandemic.

Over the last year, the library has maintained virtual programming that has included craft workshops for all ages; author visits; and presentations on various topics such as cooking, gardening, history and more; and a plethora of offerings for children, such as a summer reading club for children.

Many community members also took advantage of other offerings such as a contactless pickup service to cardholders; the increased collection of digital content that includes music, comics, videos, magazines, e-books and audiobooks; “Browse and Borrow” access to a selection of curated materials on site; and computer access as well as reference/tech help that has been available by appointment.

“I was not surprised that so many people were using the library,” said Vaccaro. “Even when the building was closed, we were helping the community stay connected to one another with our digital resources and virtual programming…Our circulation numbers continue to remain at the top of BCCLS, (Bergen County Cooperative Library System) the 77-library consortium that the LPL is a part of.”

According to Vaccaro, many patrons said they were delighted that the library “immediately pivoted [its] programs to a virtual platform.” She also noted that LPL programs “continued to remain well-attended,” with most of the virtual programs “filling up in minutes.”

According to Vaccaro, the community video demonstrates that the LPL is a gem full of resources that has also played an integral part in helping people through this challenging time. The new head of youth services said she was thrilled to receive “fantastic responses in clips from some very enthusiastic library users” for the community video, which can be viewed in its entirety below.  

Since her recent promotion to LPL Head of Youth Services, Vaccaro has promised to continue to “look for new and exciting ways to lead the library forward in the years to come.”

She is currently working on summer series dedicated to longtime LPL Children’s Librarian Grace Ho Chen, whom Vaccaro “honor[s] each and every day [she] walk[s] through the library's doors,” and is also collaborating with the Livingston Police Department on a project in memory of former township manager Chuck Tahaney, whom Vaccaro described as “another one of [her] local heroes.” 

To learn more about the services, tutorials, lectures, digital programs and other offerings currently available at the LPL, CLICK HERE.

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