With communities across the country social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19, many people of all ages are struggling to stay connected. With that in mind, several libraries have created pen pal programs to encourage local residents to get in touch.
Tennessee’s Germantown Community Library has partnered with local officials on the Dear Friend campaign, which pairs quarantined kids with homebound senior citizens to exchange letters. The project is a win-win: students who are out of school can keep busy while the elderly can access much-needed socialization while staying safely inside. "It is really something we're excited about and I'm hoping that we can continue this beyond this current crisis, which I think will be a blessing for us in our community," library director Daniel Page told ABC. “Maybe another blessing from this experience is that we as a society do a better job at connecting with senior citizens whether it's in senior care facilities, nursing homes, or maybe just in their home where they're housebound or they're just feeling lonely and we can connect with them.”
Bryan-College Station Public Library System in Texas has also implemented a pen pal program to keep residents in area senior communities connected while maintaining social distancing. Participants receive writing prompts and can send letters to up to five seniors each week. These letters give the seniors “a way to see the world, since they can’t be visited and a lot of them can’t even leave their rooms," Kate Wiemar, adult services and reference librarian, told NBC. "We’re hoping this is a window into outside life.”
Other libraries are inviting their communities to write directly to staff. Nebraska’s Wilson Public Library is encouraging elementary schoolers to send writing and drawings about what they’ve been up to during quarantine; staff are mailing personalized responses to every child who reaches out. And locals of all ages can mail or email letters to California’s Nevada County Community Library and receive in response artwork or answers to their questions. “We wanted to give people who may be feeling isolated a little something to brighten their day,” branch manager Rachel Tucker told The Union. “Who doesn’t love getting a nice letter in the mail?”
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