RADFORD – The Radford Public Library (RPL) has long been an integral part of many Radford citizens lives, from story time with their babies to a quiet place to read and reflect, as well as a place to find valuable information and resources.
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way the Library is able to offer its services, but Library Director Elizabeth Sensabaugh wants patrons to know the RPL is here for them during these trying times.
“Libraries have varied roles within their community, and public libraries are known to wear many hats,”said Sensabaugh in a recent interview via email. “At RPL, we are trying to stay connected to our community members and our City to help throughout the pandemic, and staff have been committed to offering their help as safely as possible.”
Sensabaugh says her staff has really stepped up, using their creativity, talents and love for the community to find ways to entertain, assist and inform patrons through everything from livestreaming story time and crafts to hosting on-line book clubs and more.
“I’ve always known that I worked with amazing people at RPL and the City of Radford, but they’ve shown me even more how committed they are to their patrons and community members respectfully in a myriad of ways,” she said.
“Staff have creatively offered virtual programs in the way that many public libraries have, moving their programs to an online platform,” said Sensabaugh. “RPL has offered Zoom author talks and book club meetings. We’ve had many Facebook (FB) science experiments, cooking events, book reviews, storytimes, craft activities and more. We’ve created a channel on YouTube for recorded events. On Discord, we’ve reached out to youth to provide comic book clubs. Using the ReadSquared platform we provided a remote Summer Reading Program (SRP), a Tri-Wizard Academy Reading Program, a Superheroes Reading program and now a 2021 Reading Challenge for adults and Reading Bingo for kids and teens.”
“We’ve stepped up our presence on FB as well as on Instagram in effort to engage our patrons,” she continued. “We’ve highlighted new materials, promoted library databases, offered reading suggestions and genre lists, created contests and awarded prizes, and generally interacted so as to provide good cheer and comfort to our community.”
Sensabaugh said supplemental funding from the Lamplighters, the library’s volunteer and fundraising group, has been important.
“We’re thankful to our Lamplighters for providing the funding for the prizes awarded during the SRP and for affording the costs of some of these platforms,” she said.
Sensabaugh said she feels it is important for the library to provide entertainment and comfort to the community during these sometimes scary and stressful times, as well as important resources.
“At minimum, we hope we’re helping our patrons cope during the pandemic through the comfort of entertainment – books, movies, music and more,” she said,]. “We’re also trying to meet technology and other educational needs. From an early point in this pandemic, RPL has been offering Grab & Go Holds and Copies (for curbside services) as well as in-house computer appointments. Many people have needed computer help filling out unemployment forms or simply having copies and faxes accomplished so that they can receive other supports. We have offered these services consistently throughout the pandemic, and being a constant resource is important to us; it’s part of our RPL mission. We also have offered notary services and passport services as continued staples of services while being responsive to needs and requests as they arise from the public.”
The library also made it possible for new users to sign up for a library card remotely so access to services could be provided to people who didn’t already hold a library card.
“Our IT staff acquired hotspots and chromebooks so that more connectivity could be offered remotely within our community to those who didn’t previously have access,” said Sensabaugh. “We’ve worked with Literacy Volunteers of the New River Valley to share hotspots and resources to help students and tutors connect. We’ve increased our online offerings of digital materials including ebooks, audiobooks, streaming content and more with Hoopla, OverDrive, and Kanopy to name a few. We’ve purchased new museum passes for Wonder Universe: A Children’s Museum so that families can experience this playful learning environment at no cost to them (each pass is $150 annually).”
Sensabaugh said she and the library staff members miss their interactions with patrons.
“It’s disheartening not to have people in the library, relaxing, reading, and playing in the children’s area; we miss our regular patrons, our families, our seniors, our teens, everyone,” she said. “We’re just constantly trying to find ways to reach out.”
“We especially love when people call us because we’re happy to hear the voices of our patrons.”
One way to interact was to partner with the school and the school librarian, Dr. Rebecca Caufman, who began a Global Read Aloud with students. The Lamplighters purchased the books for the teen participants and library staff were able to visit and read with students twice a week at Radford High School and Dalton Intermediate School Library.
Other library outreach has included:
Met with departments of Radford University (McConnell Library and the College of Education and Human Development) to continue planning Radford Reads with Radford University in hopes of offering an author talk to children via the local schools in 2021.
Participated in other outreach opportunities to connect with the community, including the Mountain Trotter Arts Pop-Up Holiday event and the Christmas Cruise Through at the Radford Recreation Center.
MyLibro, a new app, was acquired so that folks can access the library catalog, place holds, and schedule a time to pick up those holds. Sensabaugh says offering ease of access is paramount, and offering the simplicity of the app has helped reach patrons.
They’ve placed craft bags of supplies outside for pickup weekly so that children and adults could enjoy a free craft and activity together.
Library has done away with fines during the pandemic and has ‘suggested’ due dates, offering increased flexibility in hopes that patrons will feel comfortable to check out and enjoy library materials.
Patrons can schedule library browsing appointments and public computer use appointments between Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Friday through Saturday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
For more information about anything Library related, call 540-731-3621.