PATERSON, NJ – The COVID-19 outbreak has opened a new chapter for the Paterson Library.
Closed to the public since mid-March, the library has spent the last five months reinventing how it can continue serving the community. Now, as the library heads into one of its busiest seasons for book borrowing and programs, staffers are continuously trying to figure out ways to stay connected with patrons.
The coronavirus crisis has “made it difficult” when it comes to finding ways to be there for the public, but the library is “trying a lot of different things,” said Akiema Buchanan, head of teen services at the Paterson Library.
During the statewide shutdown, life for many shifted online, with school, work, shopping and socializing all taking place in front of a screen.
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While many libraries have shifted some of their offerings online, developing virtual story time programs, presenting performances and hosting book clubs, Paterson Library has been mindful of the fact that some families in Paterson may not have access to the internet.
“Paterson is different than other communities,” she said. “There’s a lack of technology, so we make an effort to make programming available for all.”
Even if a family does have the ability to log on, Buchanan said by this point in the pandemic, screen fatigue is something many are grappling with.
“We’re trying to figure out a way to offer programs without overwhelming people,” she said. “Even if a program sounds great, a lot of people feel like they’ve had enough of the screen and want to get off the computer.”
The library has launched a few virtual programs, like story time and trivia. Staffers have also regularly been posting activities for kids online, like how to make butter, and recipes for kid chefs.
They also share literacy tips, book recommendations, COVID-19-related information and SAT practice questions. Another major online effort involves a partnership between the library and Paterson Museum that seeks to chronicle how the crisis affected those who live, work or go to school in the city. Written, video and photo submissions are being collected for use in a visual archive.
The library’s desire to offer “unplugged” activities led to the recent creation of a wildly successful grab-and-go craft kit program for kids.
The kits debuted in June as a way to take the place of in-person craft programs usually held at the library and contain all the materials one needs to assemble crafts, like clay animals and watermelon plate fans, at home. It also includes easy-to-follow instructions to complete the crafts.
Buchanan said it seemed like a “great way” to provide kids with different activities to do that don’t involve a screen. She added that it also helps parents out, by making sure they don’t have to buy anything needed for the project and won’t need to venture out to a store during the outbreak.
“We weren’t really sure what would happen. Things are always hit or miss here. With some of our in-person activities, we plan for a lot of people and get none,” Buchanan said.
The “Take and Make” kits wound up being a home run for the library.
Over the past month, the weekly offering has grown increasingly popular. During the first week, staffers distributed a few dozen kits to families at one of three library locations and the YMCA of Paterson.
“Last week, we gave out 225 kits and I’m still shocked, honestly,” Buchanan said. “It’s been amazing.”
Families are being encouraged to share their creations using the hashtags #Patersoncrafts #PatersonPL and #TakeandMake.
“We’re hoping as interest grows that we’ll be able to raffle off a prize, like a store-bought STEM project kit that kids can build at home,” she added.
Where To Get A Kit
A new kit will be issued each week and different options are available based upon a child’s age. One kit will be handed out per child but youngsters needn’t be present, parents can come and request how many they’ll need based upon the size of their family, Buchanan said.
Each Tuesday, the library will be at the YMCA (128 Ward Street) at 2 p.m. to distribute kits.
It coincides with YMCA’s food distribution day, when boxes of pre-packaged food and fresh produce are given out to local families.
On Wednesdays, staffers will be outside of the Main Library (250 Broadway) from 10 a.m. to noon and then from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Southside Library (930 Main Street) and the Totowa Branch (405 Union Avenue).
Summer Reading Program Poised To Begin
The library aims to kick off its Summer Reading Program on July 13, an annual program that rewards kids, teens and adults for reading.
This year, participants will track minutes, rather than books, they read this summer, according to Buchanan.
“We are going to go by how many minutes,” she said. “That process may be less intimidating for people who struggle with reading. Paterson’s literacy rate isn’t very high and we want to encourage people to read,” she said.
“We have everything from audio books to e-books to comic books,” she said. “We just want people to read!”
Additional details on the Summer Reading Program will be forthcoming from the library.
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