Despite restrictions due to COVID-19, the Sussex County Library System is thriving with creative new programs and revitalized renditions of old favorites. Already it has seen some 10,000 visitors at its branches since it re-opened in July, as well as an excess of 5,000 people connect to its wi-fi network. In November, the library will celebrate National Novel Writing Month.
“The biggest change has been the popularity of our online resources,” said Will Porter, the director of the library system. “Nearly one-third of our checked-out resources have been digital resources such as e-books, e-audiobooks, movies, and magazines.”
When schools re-opened last month, whether fully, on a hybrid schedule, or remotely, the library reached out to the districts to let them know about its digital resources available to library card holders.
“We urged educators and administrators to encourage their students to ‘card up’ if they didn’t already have a card,” Porter said. “The library exists to serve all residents of Sussex County, so we’re always looking for ways to make sure we’re getting our resources into as many local hands as possible. Having a current library card is the single best way to get access to everything the library has to offer. We are working on virtual branch tours and virtual class visits with a few schools across the county, as well.”
The library had received a lot of positive feedback from schools about its e-book services, Tumblebooks, which caters to a school-age crowd, as well as cloudLibrary and Hoopla, both offering a variety of ebooks, e-audiobooks, and more, for everyone from kids to adults.
“Guidelines from the state currently restrict library buildings to 25% capacity,” Porter said. “As a result, we are finding the best way to provide safe and reliable access to Sussex County Library buildings is by appointment.”
Appointments begin at the top of each hour and last for 45 minutes. Visitors are asked to wear a mask or cloth face covering while in the building. During the last 15 minutes of each hour, library staff sanitize frequently touched surfaces in preparation for the next round of appointments. Each building is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized daily in the early morning, before any residents or front desk staff arrive.
“We are not currently hosting any indoor gatherings or programs, and public restrooms are restricted to one user at a time,” Porter said. “In addition, we are quarantining all returned materials for several days before returning them to the shelves, in accordance with the latest safety guidelines for surface contact.”
‘Where in the World is Library Card Will?’
Like the rest of the world, the Sussex County Library System has had to adjust to doing things via Zoom and other digital platforms. This summer, its Summer Reading Program was entirely online. Library users logged close to 600,000 minutes of reading over the summer.
Porter said the system celebrated September, Library Card Sign Up Month, with its virtual program ‘Where in the World is Library Card Will?” “Borrowers visiting the library even celebrated ‘Banned Book Month’ with us behind masks,” he said.
Some of the library’s programs have resumed outside while the weather cooperates, including such perennial favorites as “Read to a Dog” and yoga.
The Dorothy Henry Branch in Vernon even has an outdoor ghost walk planned for Halloween night, Porter said.
In addition to National Novel Writing Month, November will bring lots of specials. On Nov. 7, check out Indie Author Day with local indie author Lauren Fraser. The library will also feature online interactive quiz show-style gaming with Jackbox Games. Players join via Zoom at home and use their smart phones as controllers to participate in the games. Moving into the holiday season, the library will offer “Take and Make Crafts”; kid, family and adult browse bags; holiday parties via Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook Live; and much more.
COVID-19 at first saw the Sussex County Library System having to shut its doors. Now a cornucopia of fresh programs harnessing technology has emerged to keep people involved and having fun.
“We’ve got a great team at the library, and I am endlessly proud of the way they have risen to the occasion to bring the very best library services to Sussex County while upholding the highest of safety standards,” Porter said.
“We’ve got a great team at the library, and I am endlessly proud of the way they have risen to the occasion to bring the very best library services to Sussex County while upholding the highest of safety standards.” Will Porter, director