CB7 Learns About Pandemic Outreach from Local Libraries

With in-person events on pause, virtual programming continues

| 21 Jan 2022 | 04:24

The city’s public libraries offer more than just books — and even when it comes to checking out a classic paperback or hardcover, they’ve got outreach techniques to engage new crowds.

On January 20, staff from three local Upper West Side New York Public Library (NYPL) branches spoke with CB7’s Youth, Education and Libraries Committee, co-chaired by Blanche Lawton and Courtney Clark Metakis, about initiatives to reach “diversified populations” during the COVID-19 pandemic. In-person programming is currently paused at all NYPL locations through the end of January, but online activities have continued.

Bloomingdale Library (150 West 100th Street)

For kids, Bloomingdale offers five varieties of STEAM Discovery Kits — each with a specific focus on engineering, stargazing, young coders, young builders or sphero robotics — that can be checked out and returned to the library. The kits include tools, toys and books. “They’re always checked out,” said library manager Yajaira Mejia. “As they come in, they go out.”

For teens, there’s an online manga and comic book discussion program and the branch offers a community service credit for students who sign up to write their own book reviews. The branch is also planning to host appointment-only tax assistance on Tuesdays and Saturdays starting on February 3 and running through April 16, pandemic-permitting.

St. Agnes Library (444 Amsterdam Avenue)

Like Bloomingdale, St. Agnes is also offering STEAM Discovery Kits — in addition to hosting scavengers hunts for kids in the library while gathering in large groups is discouraged and sharing library card applications with schools when classes aren’t visiting the branch due to COVID-19, which library manager Jennifer Zarr explained has been a real challenge.

Before the pause of in-person programming, St. Agnes partnered with Digital Grandparents, an organization that pairs young adults with seniors to work through tech questions and problems.

Riverside Library (127 Amsterdam Avenue)

For young kids, Riverside is planning to eventually bring back family storytime events, which are ticketed, upon further COVID-19 guidance.

In the meantime, Riverside offers multiple online programs in lieu of in-person events, like a virtual discussion group for teens on “all the new and inclusive comic books that come out,” according to supervising librarian Tommy Buttaccio. The branch is also offering a practice SAT exam on January 29 and Buttaccio runs a virtual Dungeons & Dragons program for adults.