Life in a public library is very cyclical, with our annual Summer Reading Program normally taking a huge amount of time, energy and financial resources.
Beginning the moment school lets out, we typically see thousands of young readers and their parents streaming through our doors, excited to check out fun new titles or attend in-person programs about dinosaurs or animals or other fun topics. In this “summer of the pandemic,” our programming shifted online to Zoom sessions and our titles were available online or through our front-door pickup service. We missed seeing those smiling faces and hearing what books kept them up late at night reading under the sheets with a flashlight.
While it looked and felt very different, we did successfully complete our 2020 Summer Reading Program, “Imagine Your Story,” using the Beanstack app for online tracking of reading goals. Dozens of readers won prizes generously donated by the Friends of Bee Cave Public Library. Check our website for a list of prize winners to see if you won, or call the library at 512.767.6620.
Instead of soliciting financial support from local businesses during this difficult time, we chose to highlight last year’s donors as Honorary 2020 Summer Reading Sponsors, including Eyecare Essentials, Hill Country Galleria, Rigby Advanced Dental (now Paradigm Dental), Toothbud Pediatric Dentistry, Learning Express Toys, Premier Family Physicians, A+ Federal Credit Union, and QualTech Automotive. And best of all, the Friends of the Library made a generous donation to two local nonprofits in honor of our readers and in recognition of the need to support our local community, giving $1,000 each to Colin’s Hope and Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center.
As we move forward in this uncertain time, we are exploring ways to expand our services safely and are offering the public a chance to give us their input on future programming. A brief survey is available on our website or in our newsletter with questions about virtual events and outdoor programs, front-door pickup of materials, digital offerings of books and audiobooks, and other aspects of library service. The survey will run through mid-September.
What a challenge it has been to try to implement the right mix of procedures, technology and logistics that will keep our already small staff safe while looking for ways to increase the level of service we can offer to our community. Front-door pickup of library materials is available and has been running smoothly, allowing patrons to access new books, audiobooks, and DVDs through no-contact pickup. If you aren’t sure what to read next, or need help selecting materials for your kids, try our new “Ask A Librarian” service to receive personalized recommendations for you or your child. Email [email protected] to request recommendations by phone or email tailored to your needs.
Our website now also offers recommended reads for children and teens on a variety of topics. These curated lists of authors, titles and series include links to our online catalog where you can place items on hold immediately for front-door pickup. Visit the library website’s new “Recommended Reads” page and choose from Picture Books, Chapter Books, or Young Adults. For each age level and type of book, you can then choose from fun topics like Laugh Out Loud Reads, or Out of This World SciFi.
We are exploring opportunities to bring you some fun and exciting options to broaden your horizons and experience something new this fall. Keep an eye on our newsletter and website in the coming weeks where we will be announcing some virtual programs and outdoor experiences for all ages to bridge the gap of connectedness we are all missing at this point in the pandemic.
We will continue our interactive, outdoor StoryWalks that proved so popular this summer. Look for this read-along experience on the central plaza at the Galleria, where each sign contains another part of the story to read as you stroll along. At the end of the StoryWalk, grab a handout from our realtor-style box containing free activities to extend the learning and fun on your own.
Judging by our soaring usage statistics, many of you have taken advantage of our digital offerings on OverDrive by using the Libby for OverDrive app or the desktop version of OverDrive linked on our website. This popular platform gives our patrons free access to thousands of e-books, e-audiobooks and digital magazines for downloading to any mobile device. Unfortunately, wait times are often long because publishers typically license them to libraries on a one-user-at-a-time model and charge more for digital copies than they charge for print. When searching for an item on OverDrive, try applying filters such as “Available Now” to limit your search to items without a wait. If you are searching for titles for your kids on OverDrive, use the “Explore” button to search the Kids or Teen reading rooms where you’ll find colorful book covers to scroll through for titles that are age-appropriate.
TumbleBooks is another online resource that provides unlimited access to popular titles for children with no waiting or checking out. The TumbleBook Library contains many well-known and classic titles in children’s literature that have been enhanced for digital format. Remember that old TV show, Reading Rainbow? TumbleBooks offers a similar experience where your child can view the original illustrations and listen to a read-along, animated version of picture books, chapter books and even nonfiction titles. The site includes versions in Spanish, French and English, if you would like to supplement your child’s exposure to a new language. Many of the nonfiction titles are accompanied by informational videos from National Geographic. There are even age-appropriate puzzles and games available from this amazing resource. To access TumbleBooks, visit the Bee Cave library’s eResources page or call us for more information.
Barbara Hathaway is the director of the Bee Cave Public Library.