Well...with fall right around the corner, many libraries (public and school) are trying to make their plans. Libraries are deciding if they are going to try to make programs work for the end of the year or nixing them all together for 2020. Whatever decision is made, in-person programs will need to be adjusted when you start doing them again.
Alright everyone -- just to start off...I'm a librarian, not a doctor. I have no clue if you should start having programs again or not. However, I am using the information experts have been dispensing to us. For library programs it boils down to:
1.) Participants and staff need to wear a mask
2.) Participants and staff need to socially distance 6 feet (even with mask wearing)
3.) Participants and staff need to not share equipment (no touchy!)
4.) Participants and staff need to follow local guidelines for group gatherings (number of people per location)
With these rules in mind, there probably are some libraries who have the ability to have programs this fall while keeping to guidelines. Even if you are not having programs this fall, it is EXTREMELY unlikely that you will be able to dive back into regular programming at the stroke of midnight January 1, 2021. You will need to go through stages of modified programming just like we are for reopening.
What I've decided to do here is give a couple of ideas for modified programs. Again, these are just some of my opinions that could help you see what programs could look like we when finally get back to in-person business. They will not work for every library or for every programmer. Yet, I keep getting asked "how could we make it work when it's time?" Here are my personal answers to that question so that I don't have to keep typing them up to those who want my advice. Efficiency FTW!
SOCIAL DISTANCED PROGRAM TIP #1 -- REGISTRATION!
This should seem pretty obvious and straightforward. You need to know EXACTLY how many people are coming to your program. Also, it would be wise to follow the arrangements of a doctor's/dentist's office -- contacting participants a day before the program to confirm they don't have COVID, haven't come into contact with a person with COVID, don't feel ill, and don't have a fever. You can do this by calling the phone number that they use for registration or email out a Google Form to their registration email.
SOCIAL DISTANCED PROGRAM TIP #2 -- ALTERNATE SPACES!
We are needing to think outside the box right now and that doesn't end just because you are opening up for programs in this crazy time. Many libraries are only opening for an hour or two a day for browsing. I think it could be good to take advantage of that arrangement for programs since many program rooms are small, enclosed spaces. If you are able to hold a program in the main area of the library during times when you aren't open to the public, it allows you to keep everyone safer and increases the number of participants you can accommodate.
Don't stop there though! According to what we know, outside spaces are a bit different when compared to enclosed indoor spaces (which is why patios opened before indoor seating). If you have a large outside area, you can create social distancing circles like in parks to have a program there. Also, don't underestimate the power of your parking lot. Drive-ins are making a come back, and if you have a decent-sized parking lot and a microphone/speaker combination, you could easily have a performance program.
If you don't have a parking lot or outdoor space at your disposal, look into alliances instead. Playgrounds and parks are finally starting to open back up. If you can arrange something with parks and rec, you might be able to find a home for a park storytime.
SOCIAL DISTANCED PROGRAM TIP #3 -- WHAM! BAM! MINI PROGRAMS!
But Brooke! We can only safely fit 4 - 5 participants into our program space. Is it worth it to do a program?
YES! It is worth it to do programs when your library is ready to do them. Our patrons miss us like we miss them. In fact, I'm sure they're missing going out at all. Even doing a program for that many participants would be worthwhile. It would, however, create some tension if you are only doing it once. My thought is to start off with short programs -- I'm talking 15-20 minutes where people can come in, do something quick for that burst of socializing endorphins, and run. If you keep to that shortened set-up, you can more easily allow for turn over and hold multiple "mini programs" throughout the day. If you choose this arrangement, don't forget to allow for turn over time (wiping down tables, getting the group out of the library before others enter, etc.) when planning when to have the programs.
SOCIAL DISTANCED PROGRAM TIP #4 -- ENTRY PROCEDURES!
Hopefully, when your library opens, it will mark the sidewalk/entry with social distanced stickers. You will need this for indoor programs as you check in participants. Registration and mask wearing needs to be confirmed. Since participation numbers are so strict, if you are running a program for tweens or children, you'll need to tell the parent at drop off when to come back (stress EXACTLY when they need to be waiting in the social distanced stickers outside the library). Then, individually walk the participant to the specific table or area where you have planned ahead of time to have them. This direct from the door to the program spot keeps participants from wandering and stops them from touching prep/supplies that aren't meant for them.
Don't forget to have hand sanitizer at the entry point/door. Beginning with clean hands will help. As the participant walks in the door, have them use the sanitizer while you confirm their registration.
Try to type up the step-by-step procedures and include them in the registration (either reciting it over the phone or putting it in the online registration) so that people know what to expect.
SOCIAL DISTANCED PROGRAM TIP #5 -- SUPPLIES PROCEDURES!
Tools and supplies for crafts are where things get a bit difficult. Of course you will need to have equipment and supplies for each individual participant -- no sharing. This arrangement means you will need to pre-set up and divide things. You can keep to the standard of grab and go crafts (dividing things and setting them aside for 72 hours before the program). You can also spray/wipe down the tools (scissors, glue sticks, etc.) the day of the program as you put them on the table. A combination of these processes works as well (setting aside non-washables like paper and cleaning tools as you set up). Either way -- wear gloves and your mask when gathering supplies.
When doing a craft where different colors are used, try to give each participant a wide selection of colors since they won't be able to borrow from others. You can also ask via email or registration form what color (out of a selection) the participant wants.
Since you will be giving instructions from 6 feet away and won't be able to give hands-on help, make sure the supplies (and the crafts/activities you are using for the program) are as straightforward as possible. You might want to pre-measure where you can so that you aren't cleaning rulers or measuring cups on top of other things.
SOCIAL DISTANCED PROGRAM TIP #6 -- CLEAN UP PROCEDURES!
This part might seem like the most complicated but it's actually the simplest. Let the participants take turns walking to the exit (to keep from crossing paths). If working with young tweens/children, you or another staff member will need to be at the door to make sure the parents are there for the kids.
Then, put on fresh gloves and straighten your mask before working quickly and carefully. Clean the tools (either with wipes or in a sink filled with hot water and dish soap) like scissors, glue sticks, tape dispensers (not the tape itself; just pull enough for it to be untouched while wearing gloves), etc. Supplies that can't be cleaned (paper, cardboard, etc.) have to be either set aside for 72 hours or thrown out.
Asking for feedback after the program (on the phone or via email) will help you see if things worked out or if any changes need to be made before doing similar programs.
LARGE SPACE/OUTDOOR/PARKING LOT PROGRAM IDEAS
INDOOR TRADITIONAL SPACE PROGRAM IDEAS
BE SAFE AND GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!
Any comments or questions? Post them below!
Originally wanting to be the love-child of Kathy Reichs and Indiana Jones, Brooke was pulled into the magical world of library service over 12 years ago. Finding that her ultimate passion was in teen services, she did what she normally does in a heart-fueled endeavor -- ran in head-first and never looked back! Cosplayer, movie fanatic, binge watcher, Disney Worlder. Proud cat mom of Evelyn (named after the librarian character in The Mummy ).