Off the Shelf: Southwest Public Libraries' virtual programs, kits aim to inspire

MARK SHAW
Mark Shaw

Autumn has officially arrived, and at Southwest Public Libraries we are looking ahead not just to the crunch of leaves but to our next steps in continuing to provide safe and exemplary library service.

From the return of virtual storytimes and programming to more take-home kits and grab-and-go options than ever, we are continually seeking innovative ways to make the library accessible to you, our patrons.

Like you, we are eager to see our doors reopen. We are both cautious and hopeful as we monitor COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic developments that the county's health alert level moves steadily toward yellow. It is our intention to proceed with a limited reopening once case numbers indicate a sustained level of decline.

The health and safety of our community remain paramount, and in-person services will be restored gradually whenever reopening occurs.

Patrons can expect many changes, including but not limited to rearranged furniture and equipment to support social distancing, new barriers and shields and adjusted service practices. Programming will continue to be offered virtually or as take-home kits until gatherings are safe once again.

Until then, we hope you enjoy the many no-contact services and programs we are proud to offer. In addition to no-contact holds pickup, the library now offers two new grab-and-go book options. Patrons can take storytime home with a Storytime Kit, available for reserve and checkout via the online catalog or by calling Youth Services. Each themed kit contains books, a music CD and a binder full of activities and coloring pages, perfect for families and groups.

Those looking for a little help discovering their next favorite read can "browse" the library from a distance by trying out SPL's new book bundles service for a surprise or personalized bundle of books. Both locations will have Surprise Bundles with various themes available for grab-and-go during holds pickup hours, or patrons can fill out a request form, and staff will thoughtfully curate a personalized bundle in a matter of days.

Virtual Storytime and special virtual programs like STEM at Home, featuring fun science, technology, engineering and math activities, have returned and are better than ever.

Videos are presented via the library's Facebook page, and coordinating kits with activities and supplies for young patrons to follow along with at home are available for no-contact pickup on designated days.

Adults can get creative each week with different take-and-make craft kits available for no-contact pickup. All kits are offered while supplies last.

Coming in October, Youth Services is ready to get children in the Halloween spirit with a series of Spooky Stories and a virtual pumpkin decorating contest.

At SPL there is no shortage of things to keep you educated, entertained and inspired.

Explore current library news, special events and programming at swpl.org or via social media. See what is coming up for the month in SPL's Happenings newsletter available online under the Calendar tab.

SPL is offering no-contact services Monday through Saturday. Buildings remain closed at this time. Please visit swpl.org for more information.

Mark Shaw is the director of Southwest Public Libraries.