Among other things, Abraham Lincoln had to learn how to use Zoom last year. As he peered into the camera, one youngster asked him how he was enjoying 2020. Lincoln, played by reenactor Kevin Wood, replied that he was making new friends but wasn’t quite sure how he had gotten here!
“The questions from the kids were just golden,” said librarian Jen Bremer of the Delafield Public Library’s online “Abraham Lincoln” program. The virtual presentation was just one of hundreds of free, online programs that public libraries in Jefferson and Waukesha counties have offered since the pandemic began, giving people of all ages ways to learn, connect, and have fun while staying home.
Within a week of library buildings closing last March, library staff were filming and sharing storytimes and craft programs to keep kids busy and learning during shutdown. Since then, libraries have added creative and engaging online programs for both kids and adults, from virtual meditation classes to family game nights. Library users have responded with enthusiasm.
New members have joined the virtual book club at the Dwight Foster Public Library, the Storytime Bundles have been flying off the shelves of the Jefferson Public Library, and people in other states have even tuned in to watch the Watertown Public Library storytimes.
“Having virtual storytimes has allowed me to reach families at home, where they are,” said Tina Peerenboom of the Watertown Public Library. “They can enjoy a storytime whenever it works best for their family!”
Of the Dwight Foster Library’s virtual book clubs, one person wrote, “This is the best book discussion I have ever participated in at the library. Amy always has something interesting to share about the author and all the participant’s comments make the discussion meaningful.”
Besides offering fun and learning, virtual library programs have provided a way to connect with others and combat isolation. Although programming has changed this year, said librarian Amanda Brueckner of the Karl Junginger Memorial Library, “they do offer families a comforting sense of continuation when other services and programs in our community have had to close or were canceled.”
Looking back at the library’s virtual programming this year, Peerenboom said, “We were able to rise to the challenge, meet our patrons (even the youngest of them) exactly where they were, and remain a constant during chaos.”
Join in the fun online by checking the website or Facebook pages of your favorite libraries to see what’s coming up this spring. Besides weekly children’s programs, some examples of upcoming online events and kits are the “Grow Your Own Pizza Garden” kit at the Karl Junginger Memorial Library or “Well-Loved Wisconsin Garden Plants” on April 27, sponsored by several Jefferson County libraries. There’s something happening every week at the libraries, and we’d love to have you there!