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Caledon Public Library offers programming for April Break, Spring

April 7, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By ROB PAUL

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Libraries are generally full of people of all ages looking to take advantage of their numerous books and programs to learn and connect with others. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how libraries in Caledon operate, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t offering residents something to do.

Caledon Public Library has worked hard to ensure people from across the area are still able to enjoy their programming, just through a different lens with their shift to the online world.

Although the province is still dealing with the pandemic and widespread closures, Caledon Public Library has a jam-packed spring to keep people busy while they’re in lockdown at home.

“Next week is April Break and we have a week packed with activities for children and families,” said Caledon Public Library Manager of Communications and Community Development Mary Maw. “They’ve tried to balance it out between kids, families, and teens. On May 1, we’re doing a comic expo. We’ve had great success with our comic expos in the past when it was in person and this year, we’re going to try it virtually. 

“They’ve divided up the day where the kids’ programs are happening in the morning and the teen programs in the afternoon—it’s kind of two separate expos. Halfway through, they’ll have a graphic novelist do a special guest appearance—it’s something we’re really excited about. Leading up to it, they’re doing a teen fan art contest; they’re encouraging teens to create their fan art and send it in and the Friends of the Library are sponsoring it, so you can win $100 for first, $75 for second, and $50 for third. We’re excited to see what kind of creations we get.”

Over a year into the pandemic now, Maw says they’ve had plenty of people taking advantage of the different options they’ve been offering, and they’re pleased with the success of remote programming. 

“We’ve hosted quite a number of contests,” said Maw. “We started with a short story contest when we first went into COVID. That’s been engaging and for each of those, we hold a virtual award ceremony. We did a photography contest where you had to have a book in the photo and we got [around] 55 submissions. People are getting really creative with it. April is Poetry Month, and we have a poetry contest that we’re hosting, and at the end of April we have Harry Posner—the Dufferin Poet Laureate—as our guest speaker. People love to get engaged.”

Something the Caledon Public Library has prioritized is providing options in their virtual programming to appeal to a broader range of residents.

“We know we can’t be all things to all people, but there should be something within our services that will resonate with everybody—from toddlers to seniors,” said Caledon Public Library CEO and Chief Librarian Colleen Lipp. “The programs that have been incredibly popular have been the ones where we’ve been able to partner with experts in the community. We had a really popular event with the TRCA (Toronto and Region Conservation Authority) that filled up and we’ve done some fantastic [partnerships with] Bethell Hospice.

“Some of the programs that we have coming up are leveraging on that community expertise; we’ve got sessions coming up about how to get the most out of your broadband, destigmatizing mental health, and a focus on green initiatives like bringing in experts to talk about climate change. We’re finding that in addition to some of our fun programs—we’ve done a lot of trivia nights—people are really seeking information from an organization that they trust and that’s a place where we feel we can fill that gap.”

The key to keeping the programming fresh and people engaged is to give them an avenue to make connections and chat with others in the community, the way they normally would at the library.

“In mid-April, our information services are starting a conversation circle,” Maw said. “It’s Wednesday afternoons at 2 p.m. and people are invited to get together to join in a casual community conversation.”

“That’s one of the areas we’ve seen the most impacted,” Lipp said. “What happens in libraries is that people connect and meet up without any prompting from staff and that can’t happen right now. We’re trying to facilitate those connections in a way that we never had to before. Before we just provided the space and they just happened, and we look forward to a day when that can happen again.”

While the youth services librarians are leading kids’ programs with story times and many of the activities that had previously been in person, Lipp says it can provide parents with a bit of a break after such a tough year.

“I think the parents are very grateful for that moment of being able to take a breath,” said Lipp.

It hasn’t been easy and the unknown ahead can be daunting, but Maw and Lipp are adamant it’s all been worth it and the experience is rewarding to be able to give the people of Caledon those moments of normalcy, even if it’s through a computer screen.

“The hardest part is that we don’t know what the next few months hold,” said Lipp. “We’ve moved to different stages seven times and with each of those stages comes different regulations that apply as to who can come in and what they can do when they’re in our branches. What has actually remained fairly consistent is that our programs can only continue to be delivered virtually—that’s made it a little bit easier. I’m really proud of our staff and how quickly they pivoted when all of this hit a year ago to offer our services online and I’m equally impressed with residents and how quickly they’ve embraced that new format.

“I think what’s been the biggest struggle for us is that we took such great pride in our programs as a way for people to connect with each other and that’s not always as easily done in a Zoom format. Even if you’ve been to a department meeting in Zoom, you don’t get to have those side conversations and those organic topics don’t come up in the same way—that’s a bit of a struggle. In Caledon, where broadband connectivity isn’t a given, we aren’t able to bridge that digital divide with virtual programming as much as I would like.”

For more information regarding Caledon Public Library programming, online events, and contests, visit caledon.library.on.ca



         

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