With the new year around the corner, the Baxter County Library is taking a moment to reflect on this year’s triumphs and successes despite the circumstances of 2020. This year has been a difficult for everyone, but the library has learned to persevere and make the most of trying times.
Before the COVID-19 shutdown, the library was in full-gear with programming and events for 2020. A brand new program called Forgotten Tales, a unique storytime for dementia patients, rolled out in January. The library was a bustling community hub that hosted many public events, including the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Volunteer Fair. The library foundation organized the Annual Texas Hold ’em Tournament Ante Up for the Library fundraiser. The Friends of the Library held its popular used book sale in February. The Studio 300 Makerspace was buzzing with technology classes, DIY activities and book discussions. Apron Chronicles, a traveling exhibit featuring vintage aprons and accompanying stories, visited the library. Alongside the exhibit, Phyllis Speer taught a Dutch oven cooking class to a room full of attendees eager to ask questions and try a sample of her homemade peach cake.
Then, when the library closed to the public in March, staff remained hard at work to support the needs of the community. Staff was busy answering phone calls and offering support to patrons at home for downloading eBooks, signing up for new library cards and getting help with online services. The library parking lot was open to provide access to WiFi for those who needed it. A team of staff members also spent months working on a new and improved library website. In April, the library celebrated National Library Week remotely by holding weekly giveaways for gift cards from community restaurants on social media. Access to Ancestry.com Library Edition also opened for patrons to use at home instead of just in the library. In May, holds pick-up service was introduced, in which patrons could reserve books and then staff would have them ready for pick-up in the library foyer. Quarantining books and sanitizing common areas of the library soon became regular daily tasks.
When the library doors reopened in June, programming shifted to being entirely virtual. Summer Reading featured a brand new online tracking program, READsquared, which was graciously provided by the Arkansas State Library with CARES Act funding. With the app, parents and children could track their reading online without having to come into the library. Virtual performances by Stephens Puppets, Shadow Puppeteer Matt Sandbank and Act!vated Story Theatre were made available to engage children at home, though some had originally been planned to be in person. During the summer, Youth Services staff helped distribute meals to kids in collaboration with the North Central Arkansas Food Bank. Studio 300 Makerspace DIY classes became virtual as well, and they have been incredibly successful this year. Virtual genealogy classes have also been widely successful, especially with the access available to Ancestry.com from home through the library website. The Early Literacy Project had been keeping busy as well with the installation of a new Little Free Library at Mountain Station Apartments with support of community schools and partners. Though bigger plans had been in the works prior to the pandemic, in October, the library celebrated its 10th Anniversary in the Donald W. Reynolds building with an outdoor, socially distanced distribution of donuts and apple cider and a commemorative library card.
Those interested in supporting the library before the year is over should consider donating to the Library Foundation’s Wrap It Up campaign by visiting baxlib.org/WIU. Support can also be made to the library through Amazon purchases all year long at no extra cost by visiting amazon.smile.com and selecting the Baxter County Public Library Foundation as the charity of choice.
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