San Marcos Public Library revamps summer programs for an at-home experience

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Photo courtesy of San Marcos Public Library

Children's Librarian Ashley Schimelman prepares to conduct a puppet show at the San Marcos Public Library.

Brianna Benitez, Life and Arts Editor

Summer at the San Marcos Public Library usually consists of storytimes, crafts and puppet shows. While families cannot visit the library due to COVID-19, there are still opportunities for them to tap into their creativity through the library’s virtual programs.

The library closed its doors to the public in March. With summer approaching, its staff quickly revised and implemented programs and activities for the community to participate in while quarantining at home. The programs are held virtually through Facebook Live and Zoom.

Pamela Carlile, a programming and outreach librarian, said although the sudden shift in programming was unexpected, families have expressed programs, such as virtual storytime, have been a lifeline for children, providing them a sense of familiarity similar to visiting the library.

“There’s a bunch of kids that come every week to storytime, and for them, it wasn’t necessarily about getting books read to them, because of course their parents can still access books from the library; [it was more about them] being able to see our Children’s Librarian Miss Ashley,” Carlile said. “They get excited seeing someone they have a relationship with; it was really important to maintain that.”

With the summer reading program being a major aspect of the library’s summer season, Carlile said it was necessary for the library to keep up the summer program despite the circumstances surrounding COVID-19.

“Summer reading is the big thing that we do every year,” Carlile said. “We take months to plan and have multiple programs every day, so it’s definitely a slowed-down version, but [we’re] trying to offer as many options as possible and keep people engaged.”

This year the summer reading program has been conducted electronically through the Reader Zone app. Over 100,000 minutes have been read by community participants. For every four hours participants read and record in their log, they are entered to win a prize.

People also participate in the summer reading program through paper logs. The logs are available through the library’s front porch pickup service or can be printed off the library’s website. The library’s paper log option features a game board with various challenges for different reading levels—preschool, kid, teen and adult.

When a reader completes five challenges in a row, column or diagonal, they can turn in their game board into the DVD/book drop outside the library and also be entered to win a prize.

People are also able to access books, movies and other forms of entertainment through the library’s front porch pick up service.

“Not everyone can afford a Netflix account so being able to access free entertainment [has been] a big godsend to [families] during this quarantine period,” Carlile said.

Books lined up on tables inside library.
Books lined up for front porch pick-up at the San Marcos Public Library. The library’s front porch pickup service is open 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4-6 p.m., Monday-Saturday, as well as Sunday from 4-6 p.m. (Photo courtesy of San Marcos Public Library)

Virtual programs such as Zentangle art, collage art and yoga are available for library patrons to participate in. Kim Morgan-Benson, an adult services programming librarian, said these programs are relaxing and great for individuals at home to engage in.

“[The programs have] kind of been my focus,” Morgan-Benson said. “The things that I’ve been setting up, I feel like, [have been helping] people cope with being at home.”

Morgan-Benson said the library continues to navigate how to best showcase virtual programs and classes; she enjoys meeting with patrons even if it is through a screen.

Library patron Cathy Sparks has been hosting virtual collage classes through Zoom since May. Classes are held on the first Sunday of each month, where individuals can participate with materials they already have at home, such as magazines, glue and construction paper, or they can visit the library’s front porch pick up service to collect a collage making kit.

Despite classes being online, Sparks said they continue to be an opportunity for people to be creative, offer support to one another and have fun. For her personally, the classes are a designated time for her to sit down and work on her art.

“I think for people that might have stressors in their lives or they’re busy or anxious [about] what’s happening in the world; it’s a designated time to give to ourselves [and] sit down and be creative,” Sparks said. “[There’s] no pressure; any adult can come. Everyone is encouraged to do their own thing.”

Individuals with library cards have free access to eBooks, audiobooks, newspapers and magazines. The library’s front porch pickup service is open 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4-6 p.m., Monday-Saturday, as well as Sunday from 4-6 p.m.

For more information on library events and times, visit the San Marcos Public Library’s Facebook page or website.


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