ABINGDON, Va. — While Washington County Public Library and its four branches remain closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, library staff are finding innovative ways to serve the community.

According to Sally Jones, public services librarian, each library in Abingdon, Glade Spring, Mendota, Hayter’s Gap and Damascus began curbside services two weeks ago.

“Patrons can call the library to request holds on books, DVDs and books on CDs and schedule a time to pick up the materials that are located on a table outside the front door of the library. Staff members schedule pickups every 15 minutes, and requests can be filled the same day if slots are open,” said Jones.

“Since mid-June, we’ve filled nearly 300 pickup slots.

“It’s been funny. We’ll have people knock on the library door and do a little happy dance outside the door or wave to the circulation staff. Our patrons are really happy to have materials again and to have that connection. And we’re happy to be back in service. Libraries serve. That’s why we’re here,” she said.

“Libraries have always adapted to remain relevant. This is just another way for us to serve. If you’re at home and not going out as much as usual, it’s a good way to get materials now. We plan on having the curbside assistance as one of our long-term services.”

All returned materials are quarantined for 72 hours then sanitized before being returned to the library shelves, according to Jones.

Bringing the library to you

While their in-programming is on hold, the Washington County Public Library is bringing events and services to its patrons.

Using social platforms such as Zoom, the library offers a virtual coffee break, held at 10 a.m. every other Friday. Go to the calendar on the library’s webpage for instructions on how to join a Zoom meeting.

During the program, Jones interviews a member of the community — often a library staff member — followed by a discussion with online participants. “It’s a great time to catch up on what we’re reading and watching and even what we’re eating and baking,” she said.

The library continues to offer e-books and audiobooks for checkout. “They are heavily used right now,” Jones said.

The library branches offer printing and faxing services for people who send documents to an email address. Patrons can call their local branch for more information. Arrangements are made to leave the printed documents outside on the table.

Jones said her next plan of action is to develop a book club that meets outdoors during the pandemic crisis.

Summer Reading Challenge

Just because children cannot be together this year because of COVID-19 doesn’t mean they can’t have fun reading and learning experiences.

The annual Summer Reading Challenge, open to children of all ages, began June 29 and will operate through July 31. This year’s theme is “Imagine Your Story,” with a focus on fairy tales, mythology and folklore.

Reading 20 minutes a day for 20 days earns readers a book prize to be distributed at a later date.

To create a safe and fun Summer Reading Challenge, a few changes were made to the annual program this year, said Aimee Haslam, youth service coordinator.

Readers may use the Beanstack app or website to register for the challenge, track reading progress and earn badges for participating in virtual activities. Readers also can log their reading on paper calendars offered by the library. The log forms are distributed curbside and can be returned to any branch when completed.

Take-and-Make Bags

Take-and-make bags for children include coloring sheets, bookmarks, crafts, games, STEM challenges and more. Bags are available with checkouts from the Children’s Department and change weekly, providing children with new activities all summer.

Themed Totes

“The Children’s Department is also offering tote bags of books, movies, audiobooks and DVDs on various themes,” said Haslam. Totes include materials for the entire family to enjoy, including easy readers, picture books, nonfiction and movies. They also have learning activities for younger family members such as letter, number and shape recognition; counting; cutting; and matching exercises.

Story Walk

Take a Story Walk with your family at the main library in Abingdon. Just follow the signs to enjoy a story outside together. The featured story is “Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle.

ABC Scavenger Hunt

Hidden in the front and side yard of the main library are magical creatures, one for each letter of the alphabet. Children can take an ABC scavenger hunt while singing the alphabet song.

Throughout the month of July, virtual story times, book recommendations, games and challenges will be posted on the library’s social media pages, including the new Washington County Public Library Youth Services Facebook page.

Visit the summer reading page of their website at https://www.wcpl.net/kids-teens/summer-reading-challenge or call the Children’s Department at 276-676-6382 for more summer reading information.

For more information about the library’s curbside service, visit https://www.wcpl.net/curbside or call the Circulation Desk at the main library at 276-676-6233.

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Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at news@washconews.com.

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