We started working with public libraries in 2019 to raise awareness of reading issues like dyslexia and educate librarians about resources that help all children learn to read. Who would’ve envisioned that within a year a pandemic would hit, and public libraries would close. Franklin Square Children’s Librarian, Faye Lieberman, tells us what it’s like to be a librarian working remotely through COVID-19 and what she will be doing when the library reopens.
I miss the kids! My library closed March 17, 2020, and we are on lockdown until at least May 15, 2020. Libraries are doing online programming, but I’m not good at it, so I keep in contact with our kids through lots of phone calls. Some kids are too shy to talk to me, so I talk to their parents instead. Other kids can’t wait to talk to me and tell me their latest news.
What I Miss the Most
When the library is open. the best part of my day is from 3:30 to 5:00 in the afternoon. I often have a roomful of kids then and I love it! Some come in to play with toys, puzzles, LEGOs, or the computers. Others are doing homework or working with tutors. Some children are looking for books. I try to greet everyone with a smile and a hello. If I’m too busy helping people in the stacks to say hello, I ask if they found everything they were looking for, and even offer to reserve materials for them.
Most days we have library programs starting at 4:00. Diane, another children’s librarian, leads a story time, and on Friday she leads book discussions. I lead two STEM classes, doing things like magnetic blocks with the K–2 children. My grade 3–6 children love making giant marble runs. I also teach four crafts every month. The crafts vary every month, depending on holidays, seasons, or summer reading club themes. I do preschool story crafts and crafts for grades K–2, 3–6 and 5–8.
Some of our programming is run by other individuals and groups. My favorite program is Children Reading to Dogs, conducted by Therapy Dogs International. We have eleven certified therapy dogs and two dogs in training. The dogs range from a five-pound Morkie to a one-hundred-and-fifty-pound Great Pyrenees. The dogs are scheduled to be at the library for an hour, but they are usually there longer for lots of petting from children and staff. Each child reads to a dog for ten to fifteen minutes. The dogs don’t judge. They don’t care if a child is dyslexic, learning to read, or a proficient reader. All they ask for is attention. Some kids want to read to as many dogs as possible, Other kids just want to be with a favorite dog. Everyone, including teachers, could learn from the dogs how to be more accepting.
What Else is Canceled?
Some of the other programs that we’ve had to cancel this year include Wild Long Island from the Tackapausha Nature preserve. They usually bring seven or eight live reptiles, birds, and mammals, and teach the children about the animals. The instructor ends the program by asking all the children to read a book about an animal. They all choose whatever books they want. Nobody pays attention to reading levels. The discussions revolve around which animals are the coolest — reptiles, birds, or mammals. I had also hoped to have Reading with Raptors (birds of prey), organized by another wildlife rescue group. They bring in a hawk, a falcon, and an owl and read a book like City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male to the children. I am always looking for ways to make the library and reading fun, and COVID-19 hasn’t changed that.
I hope we will be able to have some in-person programming in the summer. I don’t want an all-online summer reading club. Most of all, I miss the kids!