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Virtual summer reading: Local libraries transform programs amid social distancing


(NEWS10) — Summer reading is a big attraction for many libraries. Now those libraries are working to make sure families still have access to those learning activities this summer, even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. News10 has been reaching out to local libraries and library systems in our viewing area to share how they’re making summer reading a reality amid social distancing.

Scroll down to see what your library system is doing. The information below will be updated as needed throughout the summer. 

Library Systems in New York

As any reader knows, the best part about a book is that you can use your imagination to make the story come to life while traveling anywhere you wish from the comfort of your own home. The summer reading theme chosen for New York State this year expresses just that. According to Summer Reading at New York Libraries, this year’s theme is “Imagine Your Story” and emphasizes fantasy-style books as well as your own unique viewpoint.

Mohawk Valley Library System

Serves libraries in Montgomery, Fulton, Schenectady, and Schoharie Counties

Assistant Director/Youth Services Consultant Sue Rokos says that while each library is working on its own programs there are a few key systems that libraries are using this year. All locations of the Schenectady County Library are using the “Beanstack” online reading system which includes an app that lets you track how much you have read. Other libraries within the Mohawk Valley Library System are using another reading system called “READsquared.” Have a hard time when it comes to internet access? Don’t worry. A downloadable paper form is available to help your kids track their progress. Each library decides whether readers track their minutes, the number of books they have finished, or the number of activities they have completed. Be sure to visit your library’s website for specific information.

Also, be on the lookout for “Fairies and Gnomes: Imagine Their Homes.” It’s the System’s summer reading project this year, and it encourages you to build homes that you believe would be great habitats for such creatures. Take a photo of your creation and add #518Fairyhomes to your post on Facebook or Instagram. “This is a way for families to celebrate the library summer reading program safely outdoors, build ‘STEM,’ and practice good stewardship of land and resources throughout their local community,” says Rokos. Visit the website here.

Upper Hudson Library System

Serves libraries in Albany and Rensselaer Counties

Each of the 29 libraries in this system is taking their own approach when it comes to making summer reading fun and avoiding the so-called “brain drain.” Manager of Youth and Family Services Mary Fellows says many of the libraries in their system are choosing “READsquared” which offers games, the chance to earn badges, and another way to discover new books. Virtual book clubs and storytimes are just a few of the activities that their libraries are scheduling this summer. There are activities for kids, teens, and the whole family.

“Libraries are adept and experienced at pivoting to meet their community’s needs as those needs change. During the pandemic, community after community has seen its library transform services to safely and creatively meet residents’ needs. Whatever happens this summer, libraries’ commitment to nimbly serving their communities won’t change,” says Fellows.

Credit: Southern Aidrondack Library System

34 public libraries in Saratoga, Warren, Washington, & Hamilton Counties

Like the other library systems mentioned, the Southern Adirondack Library System is working hard to keep things creative while working from a mostly virtual platform. Michele Barron, library assistant at Stillwater Public Library, says they are using READSquared this year. When kids, sign up, they’ll receive a kit at curbside pickup complete with everything they need to participate in Zoom activities this summer.

The Saratoga Springs Public Library will have you saying “Bingo!” Completing a certain number of squares on your Bingo card makes you eligible for prizes at the end of summer, according to children’s librarian Linda Clark. Cards can be picked up through contactless pickup which begins Monday, June 22, 2020.

Susan Flint, temporary head of youth services at the Town of Ballston Community Library, says they are using Beanstack and most of their summer reading program will be digital. Raffles will be happening within the program. If a patron doesn’t have access to a computer or the internet, be sure to let them know and they will help you any way they can.

The Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library is offering eager readers a challenge. 12 activities will be listed on challenge cards that must be completed. Activities include things like taking a walk, or reading a book with a blue cover. When you complete all 12 activities, you can turn in that card for a free book. They’ll also be entered into a raffle for an awesome prize. Virtual programs will be held throughout the summer. Challenge cards are available on the Library’s website.

Mechanicville Public Library’s Director Michelle Duell says they are offering signups on the Library’s website. Adventure logs will be available for kids at curbside pickup.

At the Schuylerville Public Library, Bingo sheets will available digitally and in physical form. Each completed Bingo sheet will be a raffle ticket that will go towards prizes that will be raffled off at the end of the summer. The Library also works with CAPTAIN to offer free lunches to kids during the summer months. The Program starts June 29 and ends August 28th. Kids in need of a nutritious meal can stop at the library and pick up their lunch between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.


Credit: Bennington Free Library

Bennington Free Library

For families in Vermont, the Bennington Free Library is creating a mixture of virtual and tangible activities this summer. Reference and Adult Services Librarian Karson Kiesinger says physical reading records and stickers will help kids to keep track of their reading progress this year. After your child completes a record, they will be eligible for a free book that will be delivered to their home. Storytime will continue on Facebook each week and a “Story Circle” will be added to the Library’s courtyard. Summer reading ends August 5, with Michael Clough from the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum. He will be showing off some of the museum’s critters.

Kiesinger says that summer reading materials will also be packaged in boxes that will be delivered to daycare centers and family daycare homes through the Library’s weekly “Book Express” program. For more information on all of the summer fun, visit the Library’s website here.

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