‘At Home’ program Grant will boost Buda library’s online services

Staff Report

A Family Science Night that was to be held back in March was the first COVID-19 casualty of the Buda Public Library.

More and more plans were scrapped in an effort to slow the coronavirus spread. But there’s been some good news for Buda-area residents and public library patrons.

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission’s CARES grant program recently awarded the Buda library with a grant of $17,500 to be used to enhance the library’s response to COVID-19.

In addition to enhancing online programs and creating new ones, the money will fund “Science in a bag” and “Storytime in a bag,” bundles available for checkout so child patrons can engage in library programs at home.

Both programs are set to debut in the fall.

Immediately after COVID-19 cancellations began, library staff began developing a digital program, including a video series called Watercolor Wednesday and Cards with Ms. Martha. When book publishers opened access to reading books online, staff added Toddler and Preschool Storytime to the video line-up.

The library closed its doors to the public at the end of March, and while it was able to re-open in June with limited hours, library staff made plans for virtual summer reading programs. Summer at Buda Public Library usually consists of reading clubs for all age groups, weekly classes full of children and teens, multiple storytimes and large events that bring youth to the library.

“Summer provides students an opportunity to read totally for pleasure and it is so important for libraries to make it easy to find materials and encourage reading,” Assistant Director/Children’s Librarian Martha Sanders said. Reading club participants track time read on logs provided by the library and then return them via curbside service for prizes. Reading logs can be picked up and turned in until Sept. 5, a date that was extended to coordinate with Hays CISD start date.

In addition to the summer reading club, the library staff created a virtual summer program that mimicked a typical summer schedule. “It was important for us to create a sense of comfort and consistency with what we have provided in the past, even if the medium was different,” Youth Librarian Caitlin Foley said.

Summer always starts with a large Kick-Off Party that brings in hundreds of families. This year, the library provided a digital Kick-Off Variety Show featuring skits from library staff, magician Julian Franklin and videos created by library teens. “Making the variety show was a huge learning curve. We went from no video programming experience to posting four videos a week and creating a 90-minute variety show in the span of two months,” Foley said.

Weekly summer classes were held over Zoom, large events were moved online, and weekly videos were scheduled to go up onto Facebook and later added to the library’s website. The library also provided journals and weekly prompts to children and teens along with crafting supplies.

Even while providing online programs, the Buda Public Library is aware that not everyone in the community has internet access. In fact, according to the census, 10.18% of households in Hays County have no internet access.

During the COVID-19 crisis, this population is left out of all virtual programming and unable to connect with digital materials. Several components of the summer reading program were designed to accommodate participants with a non-digital option including the journal program, craft kits and paper reading logs.

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