A few weeks into Illinois’ stay-at-home order, Children’s Librarian Lyndsey Carney decided to host an at-home craft program for families on how to make salt dough ornaments. While her children began to shape their ornaments, Carney launched into a description of the educational potential of salt dough. “You can make anything you dream up. Letters or numbers or—” “Unicorns?” Her young daughter cut in to ask. “Of course,” Carney replied, without hesitation, “I like to dream about unicorns, too.”
Library services look a little different these days, and the Normal Public Library is no exception. While we officially closed to the public on March 13, NPL staff have worked to quickly transition from on-site to virtual programming and outreach. This transition has led to new innovations and increasing accessibility, as everything from Lunchtime Yoga to Baby Rock to Tea and Paint have been made available on NPL’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
In the past, library programs have been restricted to those who could be physically present at a set time, and limited space often restricted participation to those who registered early. For some staff members, virtual programming provides an opportunity for NPL to serve patrons who have been unable to attend programs in the past. And while these changes have presented challenges, such as avoiding copyright infringement for books and songs used in programming, they have also enabled the library to showcase what it does best: create a sense of community.
“[The virtual craft programs] have been fun because my kids have been involved. My hope with involving them is that patrons will feel connected and know we are all in this together,” Carney said.
This age of social distancing has drawn national attention to another thing at the core of library service: accessibility. In the past two months, NPL services, including online learning resources and a live chat with NPL staff members, have increased community access to education, information, and even PPE!
3-D printed personal protective equipment is perhaps one of the most surprising new resources on offer, manufactured by NPL staff members and distributed with the help of the McLean County Emergency Management Agency.
“So far, we've donated dozens of face shields and hundreds of ear guards. There's still a great need however, so we've been working hard,” said Feras Becerra, one of several staff members involved in the project.
The Normal Public Library has no reopening date currently set. While the possibility of a phased reopening is being discussed, NPL staff are being careful to consult local and state medical authorities on proper safety procedures.
In the meantime, head over to our Facebook page to learn how to use flour, salt, and water to make a unicorn of your own.
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