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During COVID-19 pandemic, the West Linn Public Library is adjusting to fill community needs

When the United States began to hunker down into quarantine in March, library officials across the country knew people would need library services more than ever. Bored and stuck at home, people have been hungry for new books, movies, and online classes and activities.

PMG SCREENSHOT: WEST LINN PUBLIC LIBRARY - Leslie Miken reads during an online version of West Linn Public Library's Community Story Time.Despite being forced to shut its doors, the West Linn Public Library has stepped up to fill those needs.

While the library offers a large selection of e-books and audiobooks, easily accessible from home, readers can still pick up physical books through the library's curbside system. The library can also deliver books to people who can't safely leave their homes.

The popular library video-streaming service, Kanopy, is also still available to everyone with a library card.

But the West Linn library is more than just a place to check out books and movies.

Library programming like story time, baby sign language, trivia night, various STEM classes and even cooking classes have come to play a prominent role in the lives of many West Linn families.

West Linn Library Director Doug Erickson said in March, library staff had to shift its programming to serve the community in a non-traditional way.

"We quickly decided to go all in on doing original programming and also aggregating information and programming that we found and thought might be useful for the community," he said.

The library made its popular summer reading program work online this year.

Youth Services Manager Sarah Flathman said the library relied on a program called Beanstack, which has a user-friendly website and app, for this year's summer reading.

Flathman said she was pleasantly surprised when over 600 people signed up for Beanstack.

The library recently offered a community survey to see how the new online programming fit the community's needs. According to Flathman, the survey feedback was mostly positive, reinforcing the direction the library was already heading toward.

Still, the library has emphasized certain types of programming in response to the feedback, adding more health and wellness and financial advisory classes for adults, and more arts and crafts activities for kids. Other feedback they've tried to incorporate into the new online programming is more time for interaction between participants.

Flathman said people wanted more opportunities to talk with others in the same activity.

Library staff are preparing for the new programming that will begin this fall, like the popular Kindergarten Carnival.

The weeklong carnival will begin Oct. 1 and like summer reading it will also take place on the Beanstack app.

Both Erickson and Flathman said the carnival is a good way to introduce kids and their families to the library, its staff and resources.

"This is such a difficult year to be starting kindergarten," Erickson said. "We want to make sure parents are aware of all the virtual programming and resources we offer."

Erickson also mentioned that the West Linn library and Wilsonville Public Library are working slowly with the West Linn-Wilsonville School District as it navigates the new normal of schooling.

Some of the schools' teacher librarians had to shift into other roles, so both community libraries are ready to help fill in whenever necessary.

Erickson noted that despite the shift to virtual programming, people who are not confident using technology can still make use of the library and its staff. He said library staff has responded to letters helping community members access their library resources.

"We're still using mediums that people are comfortable with like phones, and so we do have reference librarians available Monday through Friday who are answering calls," he said. "If they just want to talk to somebody and say 'I'm interested in this and I don't know how to do it,' librarians can walk them through something that they might enjoy."

For more information on the library resources and programming visit the website, https://westlinnoregon.gov/library.


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