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Exeter Community Library Gets Creative to Serve the Community

By Exeter Community Library

Oct 01, 2020

Covid-19 has confined people to their homes, shuttered doors, and taken far too many lives across the United States and around the world, but there’s one thing it can’t do – stop community programming at the Exeter Community Library. 

That’s not to say ECL programming hasn’t changed. Indeed, it has. It had to. Community programming, in which local residents are normally encouraged to spend time together to celebrate authors, write letters, and spend time crafting, among other activities, simply doesn’t have a place in the post-Covid norm that is 2020. Unique challenges arise for community programming when residents are physically unable to meet in-person, but the library has taken a creative route with their fall line-up in hopes of bringing smiles to patrons’ faces. 

While adults feel the disappointment of constant postponements and cancellations, children’s lives have been affected just as much, if not more, and children are less likely to understand the ‘why’ behind the sudden changes. Families with children too young to attend school have often relied on library story times and craft activities to keep their children engaged and active. When the library closed its doors to patrons in March, they never expected the shutdown to continue for so long, but without a safe plan for reopening, the doors must remain closed. As a result, the library’s staff has gotten resourceful with ways to implement both children’s and adult programming.

Children’s Librarian Laura Kauffman and Youth Services Librarian Laura Carson have worked to schedule weekly and monthly programs that families and children can attend from home, and craft kits that can be picked up curbside. On Tuesdays, Carson runs Baby Lapsits, a story time designed for children ages birth through eighteen months, while Kauffman runs Children’s Story Time for toddlers through preschoolers on Thursday mornings – all via Zoom.

Additionally, the two Children’s Librarians have hosted Family Book Clubs through Zoom, most recently with award-winning, local author, Amy Sarig King, who attended the Zoom meeting to answer questions and chat with families who read her book over the past month. The librarians look forward to the fall line-up of activities, even if in-person contact is out of the question for the foreseeable future. Kauffman and Carson, or “The Lauras” as they’re affectionately known around the library, have arranged monthly craft & book packs for children in kindergarten through sixth grade, Teen Book Boxes for teens in seventh grade and up (as a distribution site for the Berks County Public Library’s TBD program), and weekly Book Bundles where guardians provide information on what topics interest their children and the librarians pick out a handful of books for each child for Saturday curbside delivery.

Laura Kauffman says, “Our job is to assist parents by putting the tools they need in their hands so they can help their children succeed and their family thrive. Parents don’t have thirty minutes to do lesson planning, or research for ten books on a particular subject, or dig through closets for craft supplies. They are already juggling their own job, their child’s schooling and care, maintaining a household, and so much more. By picking up prepared materials at the library, we’ve done all the homework for them.”

“And when a parent needs help explaining to their children what’s going on in the world around them, the library can provide all of that information, regardless of a family’s socioeconomic status. The library is here, providing resources, and, most importantly, the library is free to all – always,” Kauffman adds.

On the adult end of programming, monthly book club meetings are set to resume October 21st with a Zoom discussion of Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief, and Executive Director Mallory Hoffman says the library plans to pursue more virtual adult events soon, including the monthly letter writing social, adult book bundles, and the distribution of free coloring supplies for ‘at home’ coloring nights.

Covid-19 has prevented the library from its normal fundraisers, like the twice-yearly Book & Bake Sale. As a result, Friends of the Exeter Community Library are holding a mini-book sale (no baked goods) outdoors in the library’s side parking lot on October 17th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (rain date of October 24th). The sale will include fiction, thrillers, DVDs, and puzzles. Masks are required, and the library asks attendees to practice social distancing.

In addition to programming, the Exeter Community Library is open for curbside pick-up for orders placed online or by phone or email, and patrons can request books, movies, or music from anywhere within the Berks County Public Library system. Mallory Hoffman says the library hopes to be open for browsing by appointment sometime over the next few months, but a date for that hasn’t yet been officially confirmed.

The library has also continued their partnership with the Jewish Federation of Reading/Berks County and the Sinking Spring Public Library for a second season of Literatour Berks, a community-wide celebration featuring authors, celebrities, and cultural influencers throughout Berks County. Literatour Berks events will remain virtual throughout the 2020-2021 season. To view the full listing of 2020-2021 events and to register, visit the Literatour Berks website at www.readingjewishcommunity.org/home/literatour.

The Exeter Community Library aims to serve the community as a center of learning, accessible recreation, practical tools, and hundreds of free programs designed for children and adults to participate in throughout the year. For information on any of the programs listed above or for hours of operation, visit www.berkscountylibraries.org/exeter. The library also encourages visits to their Facebook page for regular updates, raffles, information on upcoming outdoor book sales, Zoom log-in information for virtual programming, and more.

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