MORRILL MEMORIAL LIBRARY

Limited Browsing Hours
Monday - Saturday: 9:30 am - 12:30 pm
Sundays: Closed
At Risk/Senior Hours
Tuesday / Thursday : 8:30 am - 9:30 am
Curbside Pickup
Monday - Saturday: 1:30 pm - 4:15 pm

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Popping Up During the Pandemic

pop-up-book-space-scene-illustrationSeveral years ago, the library held its annual essay contest asking participants to envision the “library of the future”. Many schoolchildren in Norwood traditionally submit an essay and the staff looked forward to their creative responses. The kids did not disappoint and many essays were filled with dreams of libraries as a cross between an amusement park, indoor play space, and candy shop. We were thrilled with the idea of a roller coaster in the stacks; we were less thrilled with the suggestion that robots can replace librarians.

Well, the future is here today and it looks so different than anyone imagined. My husband and I joke around and refer to any time before March 2019 as the “before times’ when we’re talking about changes COVID-19 global pandemic and subsequent self-isolation have brought. While we try to keep things light, the differences in life before and after the existence of COVID-19 are definitely necessary but also extremely stark. It can be hard to wrap our minds around how much things have truly changed in our home lives, around town, and in our workplaces.

This is certainly true in the library world. Prior to the COVID crisis, the Morrill Memorial Library was a bustling, fast-paced library with nearly one hundred to two hundred visitors entering our facility per day. The staff was used to handling many requests from patrons along with providing four to seven programs for patrons a week. Lots of people think a library is a quiet, sedate place to work but the MML is often the scene of controlled chaos! The staff was constantly looking for new ideas to transform and extend library services to as many Norwood residents as possible.

But change is inevitable. Now that we are living with the reality of COVID-19 and all the changes it has brought, the library is still evolving to meet the needs of our community. On the one hand, I would love to go back to our old “normal” with patrons in the building and our regular mode of programming. On the other hand, the changes in our world have forced me to reconsider how we can better deliver library services, especially to children and families.

Artist Pablo Picasso one said that, “I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” This has been my mantra as I figure out a way to forge new services and programs for kids. In some ways, the closing of our facility has brought me back to basics. The library is fundamentally about providing free access to information. For children, the library supports literacy skill building by giving kids free access to books so they can practice and improve their reading. Though children were engaging in distance learning and homeschooling activities with their parents and teachers, they had distressingly limited access to reading materials and other academic support.

As I pondered a way to fix this , a shockingly simple idea came to me: Get books to children. We know that children surrounded by a large array of books learn to read more quickly, do better in school and score higher on standardized tests. In the past, the library relied on parents knowing that and seeking out our materials. As librarians, we also know that kids develop a love of reading if they have a say in what they read. With our building officially closed to the public, we had to figure out a way to replicate the browsing experience kids have in our library. And so, the Pop-Up Kids’ Library was born!

The MML’s Pop-Up Kids’ Library is a mini-traveling library of children’s books that sets up shop at a different Norwood school every Thursday in the summer. Children’s librarians bring a wide selection of books from picture books to graphic novels to favorite short chapter book series. We set up tables, our pop-up tent, and our laptops and get ready to wait on families for 3 hours in the great outdoors. Finally, we are very serious about safety and make sure everyone is wearing a mask and observing social distancing guidelines.

So far, the Pop-Up Library has been a huge success! Kids love to say hi and chat about what they’ve been up to since they last came to the library. Watching them find their favorite titles on our browsing table has been a joy for parents and staff. Parents have also reported kids have either run out of reading material at home or are bored with the books they have. Finally, many parents have said they are continuing to require reading and other schoolwork over the summer to keep kids’ skill sharp for September.

For info on the Pop-Up Library and where we’ll be next, click here. Wear your mask, bring your kids and your library card (dogs are welcome too) and meet us there!

Kate Tigue is the Head of Youth Services at the Morrill Memorial Library. Look for her article in the July 23, 2020 issue of the Transcript and Bulletin.

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