by Terry Rogers
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many people are finding themselves looking for creative ways to keep busy. Milford Public Library, which remains closed under the State of Emergency Order, kicked around several ideas on how to reach out to patrons.
“We didn’t know how we could address them,” Vivian Erickson, Computer Assistance Director, said. “We talked about doing something on our Facebook page, maybe asking patrons how they were coping, what strategies they were using. But we felt the people who rely on the library may want more of a community touch, something we have been lacking as we adjust to a new normal.”
While getting together on Zoom with another staff member after work one day, Erickson got the idea that an online meeting for patrons might be a great way to reach out. What developed from two co-workers chatting on Zoom developed into The Virtual Café. The first, held May 7 at 5 PM, Virtual Café was open to the public and designed as an informal method of gathering, providing a sense of community, human voices, connection, information and the ability to chat with another person in a relaxed atmosphere.
“Do you long to wrap your hands around a hot cup of coffee or tea, a cold glass of lemonade or a glass of wine, and have a chat with a friend you have not seen for a while?” Erickson said. “We do, too. Now is not the time to see a friend face-to-face, but that is what the Virtual Café is designed to do. It is a place where we can chat about our week, share with one another and feel connected again. We can talk about the books you are reading, the online resources you have found, how to help kids cope and how to help you cope.”
Anyone interested in the Virtual Café should register with the library at https://delawarelibraries.libcal.com/event/6681362. They must have a valid Delaware library card and be over 18. Library cards are available online as well. After they register, they will be sent an invitation to the Zoom meeting before the event. The next Virtual Cafe will be held Thursday, May 14 at 5 PM and all who wish to participate must register in advance.
In addition to the Virtual Café designed for adults, the library is also offering virtual programs for teens and children. The Captivating Calculations program includes a Math Escape Room where kids use clues, riddles and puzzles to escape. Steaming With Stem provides different design challenges. One challenge involves creating a paper glider that can travel 100 feet and lands on a designated target. There is also a virtual challenge that teaches how to make a kite from a recycled plastic bag. Each week, the library tries to add new and exciting virtual programs for teens and children.
“Other things children and teens can do is to join some of our online clubs,” Robin Lank, Children’s Librarian, said. “They can draw things from the Just for Art club’s prompt list, learn how to solve a Rubik’s Cube in the Rubik’s Cube Club and join us every Friday at 2 PM to watch and discuss anime in our Anime Club. We also have a teen tip page where teens can read the tip of the week.”
“When COVID-19 started, we had no idea how long we would be quarantined in our homes,” Erickson said. “Folks are getting weary of being by themselves. Human beings need interaction with others. Even if we cannot do so face-to-face, we can “see” each other and talk with each other through virtual means. We can help each other maintain until we can start congregating again.”
Erickson believes that the biggest challenge for the library is what the “new normal” will look like when they are able to open again.
“We want to ensure that our staff and patrons remain healthy,” Erickson said. “We want to serve our community well. The big question is how to best do these things. In the meantime, we will try to produce programs that help meet all our patrons needs as best we can.”