Ultra-Creative Ways Libraries Have Adapted to COVID

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COVID-19 has upended life as we know it, but libraries have been going above and beyond to continue serving their communities during these unprecedented times.

By expanding their online resources, offering contactless pickup, and hosting socially distant programming, libraries have found safe ways to keep patrons engaged, informed, and entertained.

Here are just a few of the most innovative ways we’ve seen libraries respond to the pandemic:

Fun (and safe) outdoor programs

While COVID has prevented libraries from hosting community programs indoors, some have gotten creative to offer socially-distant outdoor activities. Wisconsin’s McMillan Memorial Library put together a no-touch escape room in a corridor outside their library, in which participants solved puzzles using only their phones and chalk drawings on the walls. Connecticut’s Russell Library hosted a book discussion on a nearby lake using kayaks, allowing locals to enjoy nature and each other’s company while keeping a safe distance.

A zine full of pandemic-inspired art

Shortly after lockdown began, Virginia’s Arlington Public Library launched a weekly “quaranzine” full of community creations about life during coronavirus. Content includes poetry, illustration, photography, collage, painting, and more; contributions come from people of all ages and reflect the complex emotional landscape (from anger and grief to humor and hope) of living in 2020.

Video games that build community

While people haven’t been able to gather in person during the pandemic, libraries have brought patrons together virtually using video games. Iowa’s Cherokee Public Library has adapted their popular esports program to be fully remote during COVID, and teens have appreciated the opportunity to engage in fun teamwork from the safety of their homes. And libraries like South Carolina’s Charleston County Public Library have created virtual branches in the popular game Animal Crossing: New Horizons, allowing people to stop by a cartoon version of their local library and say hi to a librarian’s avatar.

Creative takes on contactless pickup

Curbside and drive-through pickup services have been a gamechanger for library users this year, allowing them to take home books and media with a reduced risk of COVID transmission. Several libraries have gone viral thanks to their clever content promoting contactless services, including Harris County Public Library’s hilarious infomercial-style Curbside Larry ad and Duke University’s catchy music video “Library Takeout.” Some libraries have even gone beyond the traditional curbside model: over the summer, Virginia’s Montgomery County Public School District partnered with a drone delivery service to fly books directly to students’ homes.

How has your library innovated during the pandemic? Email ilovelibraries@ala.org to share.

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