Please note that through the phases of reopening, some of this information may be changed when this article goes to print, but Columbia County, Richmond County, Fort Gordon MWR, and the ABBE Regional Library system are all updating information on their websites, and each is offering some version of the following resources.
I’m sure everyone has unique places or experiences they have missed over the last several months. For me, the library tops the list. I have loved checking out books since I was a child, and I am grateful for the public service of being able to borrow books at no cost. The library is a place where I always enjoyed my independence. As a child, I roamed through the racks looking for the right book or felt studious in the reference section while working on school projects. My first summer volunteer job was at the library. In high school, my English teacher assigned each student a different British author for a research paper. She gave me a modern author, asking if I would be willing to go to the local community college library to find more information. Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is still my favorite play because of that lucky adventure.
Libraries offer much more than books. They now have internet, computer and printer usage for community members— something that has been helpful to me during military moves and is very important for low-income families. There are educational programs, both through the library and through space available for community groups. You can check out movies and CDs and have access to reference materials and periodicals. A library card tops the list of my first week “to-dos” whenever we move.
I will forever be a proponent of funding and access to libraries. But, like many organizations, libraries are struggling to find their footing right now with a public that may be unaware of all they have to offer in the stages of reopening. I communicated with local librarian Natalie Pulley regarding the resources available for families through Columbia County’s library. Pulley stated that Columbia County libraries are offering curbside pickup and virtual versions of much of their programming. She explained that some community members, such as those with small children or older patrons, might find it helpful that the library plans to “continue the service in some form as staffing allows.” Through the online service Beanstack, the library was able to do its annual summer reading program virtually. The library system believes that Beanstack is an effective way to log reading and they are looking for ways to expand its usage into other programs.
Your local library is a community resource for meeting people with similar interests who are engaging in lifelong learning. For example, Pulley discussed the adult book club, Pub Fiction, that meets once a month at Pizza Central. During the pandemic, the group connects on Zoom, and Pulley said, “this is yet another example of how libraries have actively responded and adapted to meet the needs of their communities during this time.” In addition to the book club, they host a discussion group called the Pod Squad which discusses “true crime stories available through podcasts.”
Pulley’s co-worker and young adult librarian, Mallory Harris, joined the conversation to share the type of programs offered for teenagers. Once the library can be open, teens have access to the Makerspace. She explains that “teens are encouraged to bring in their project ideas, but it’s also a great place for curious teens to find out how these different machines work.” In the space, there is a 3-d printer, a CNC machine, sewing machines and laptops. Makerspaces are becoming more common in libraries across the country, so check with your local system to see what technology may be available for different age groups.
Like my summer volunteer work back in the nineties, there are still opportunities for teens to work in the library. Harris explained that teens can earn volunteer credit by actively participating in the monthly Teen Advisory Board (TAB). TAB is also currently meeting on Zoom and, along with other events information, can be found on gchrl.org. She also wanted to encourage families to check out Brainfuse Help Now, an e-resource which “offers different homework help tools, a 24-hour writing lab and live online tutoring. With the pandemic disrupting the traditional school learning experience, it is nice to have some extra help available if needed!”
Libraries are a wonderful resource for brand new parents and little ones. There are board books available, through curbside pick-up, and Baby & Me classes for parents to attend with little ones. When my children were toddlers, we loved attending story time, watching live performers and joining Lego clubs. Now a homeschool family, we constantly use reference books, children’s computers and media available for check out. So, whether you are exploring learning online, or dropping in, make the library a part of your family’s fall routine.