Summer reading may look a little different this year, Ellen Farwell, children's librarian said, but it will go on. This year's theme is "Imagine your story" and it runs until July 10.
The Bella Vista library closed in March, along with many schools and offices, due to the coronavirus and there's no decision yet on when it will reopen. That forced the staff to rethink many of its programs, including summer reading.
Part of the summer reading program has always been online, Farwell pointed out. The program uses an online program called Beanstack to track the numbers. People can sign up by following the link on the library's webpage or Facebook page.
As books are read, the reader earns digital badges.
One advantage of online tracking is that people can use it anywhere they have an internet connection, so vacation travel doesn't interfere with tracking.
All kinds of reading counts, including audiobooks and ebooks.
There are summer reading programs for all ages, Farwell said. Children are divided between the very youngest in the "read to me" group. Those kids can also be in the 1,0o0 books by kindergarten program simultaneously. Younger elementary-aged kids can be in the picture book group, while older ones are grouped in the chapter books. Then there is a teen group and finally an adult summer reading program.
Although the building is closed, all kinds of library books are available using curbside pick up. Patrons can choose books online and place a hold through the website, or they can email or even call the library. Library event coordinator Bailley Kinser said curbside pick up works well. Most patrons know exactly what they want when they call, she said, but the librarians are happy to help with suggestions if they don't.
The books are put outside in bags marked with the patron's name. Pickup is between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Monday through Thursday. The staff asks that only one patron at a time approach the table. When the bags come back in on Thursday of each week, books that were not picked up are reshelved.
Everything is checked out for three weeks and returns are put into the book drop.
The programs are always a big part of summer reading. Usually, guest presenters visit the library and the meeting spaces are packed with patrons. Some of the favorite programs among the younger readers are magicians, musicians and hands-on science. Those types of performances won't be scheduled this year. Instead, the programs are taking place online. Two programs will include the Tulsa Zoo and another will feature a nationally known children's author.
The first adult program, Mel Zabecki of the Arkansas Archaeological Survey talking about Egypt, took place last week, but the video can be viewed on the website.
Since many of the programs use an interactive approach with Zoom, Kinser has a Zoom tutorial up on the library website.
On July 20 at 2 p.m., Laurel Lamb of the University of Arkansas Museum will be sharing the history behind the legend of mermaids.
There will also be some Facebook events, including a scavenger hunt and a fiction challenge this summer.
Whether the library opens or not, the Summer Reading Program will have real prizes. Sponsors like Dairy Queen and Gusanos have donated coupons. When readers earn digital badges, they will also receive a real button and a lanyard to wear it on, Farwell said. They are also earning tickets that will go into a drawing for the bigger prizes. Prizes may be distributed curbside if the building is still closed.
Meanwhile, the library staff is still getting ready for a grand reopening that will introduce patrons to a brand new addition to the library. The children's department has moved to a new space, and the Friends of the Library Encore Bookstore has expanded its used book sales into the old children's department. Eventually, the library will have a new meeting room, a new reading room and several smaller spaces for tutoring.