Debbie Allen said “But out of limitations, comes creativity.” In mid-March when the Coronavirus pandemic was making its way through the country, South Carolina’s libraries began discussions on how to keep their doors open to serve the public. However, it became clear that the library doors were closing fast as the state mandated many communities with sheltering in place.
Libraries immediately responded by increasing online services. South Carolina has a history of natural disasters, mainly hurricanes that allow some lead-time for planning as well as projected end dates. There is no rulebook to follow for the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly two months later, public libraries across the country remain physically closed to the public.
It is not surprising; however, that South Carolina public libraries used this as an opportunity to rethink services creatively and quickly offered innovative alternatives to traditional building or outreach options. The buildings are closed but the libraries are most definitely serving patrons.
Every public library has provided online services during building closures. The State Library along with Berkeley, Abbeville, Greenwood, and Chesterfield public libraries offer patrons online library cards. Remote access to databases allows ongoing research services offered by every library including Newberry, Dillon, and Sumter libraries. With your State Library card, patrons access Safari Books Online and ProQuest Ebook Central, offering professional and academic resources and access to NewsBank: America’s Newspapers and ProQuest Historical Newspaper Collection: Black Newspapers.
Nearly all public libraries, including Williamsburg, Lancaster, and McCormick libraries, offer easy access to ebooks from their web pages. Patrons view magazines online at many libraries including Anderson and Chapin Memorial through Flipster. Hoopla and Freegal are easy ways to access music and movies and some libraries, such as Richland, offer access from their home page. Online access to genealogy resources at libraries including Allendale-Hampton-Jasper Regional Library, Marlboro, and Cherokee County libraries help patrons with family research from home. Calhoun library has added Mango Language for a limited time to assist with learning new languages. There are many career resources available including services at Laurens County that help patrons through their phone-a-resume program.
Perhaps you are looking for something fun? Lexington County Library offers a virtual SC road trip from their web page and Georgetown library’s website helps explore local history online. Non-online resources are also available. Clarendon County Library has a weekly puzzle or word search in the local newspaper and Lee County library has a book truck outside the library back door with free books. Across the country and state, librarians have been refilling neighborhood “little free libraries” with personal or donated materials.
Reading does not stop in South Carolina! Dorchester library continues to hold a virtual book club while Oconee County Library distributed books to children along with their pick-up meals at local schools. Pickens County Library offers dial-a-story with special guest readers. Families can continue to read together with the online storytime programming on the Colleton County website or the Facebook pages of Chester, Saluda, Orangeburg, Darlington, and Fairfield libraries among others. Union, Florence, and Kershaw county libraries created specialty youth programming available on YouTube. Helping keep young children busy each day can be a challenge so the State Library offers an online family literacy activity calendar found at DaybyDaySC.org. Every day offers fun activities, online videos, and access to Tumblebooks for a database of readalong stories for all ages. Additional sections provide information about South Carolina, health and safety, and an arts and crafts page. You can even print out a hard copy of the calendar or a literacy on the go activity booklet from the literacy toolkit page from the same link. One of the programs that has been successful during the year has been learning about food literacy at the library with the Charlie Cart mobile kitchen and the SC Read Eat Grow program created by the State Library. Even though Charlie is not on the road, Horry County library offered an online cooking lesson to promote healthy food choices during the closures.
Taking unique programming into the virtual realm has been a snap for the public libraries. Escape Rooms are very popular and now you can participate in an online escape room from the websites of York and the ABBE (Aiken-Bamberg-Barnwell-Edgefield) Regional public library. Maybe you read about the virtual branch in the Animal Crossing game on the ALA website created by Charleston County public library staff. You will find access to Creativebug on the Greenville library website offering tutorials to help spark creativity. Spartanburg public library is holding a contest in three age groups to contribute to the Spartanburg County Pandemic Time Capsule. Marion County Library offers an online poetry contest while Beaufort Library is sponsoring an online bookmark contest to promote the summer reading program.
The State Library offers online reference service via email and chat and many of the public libraries do as well. While children may not be in school, you will still be able to access the research tools needed through SCDiscus.org with a deep well of educational resources for all levels. In addition, the State Library offers a limited subscription to Tutor.com which offers one-on-one online tutoring assistance in English and Spanish. Some of the unique programming offerings from the State Library have included a celebration of El Día de los Niños with online storytimes in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and American Sign Language. Continuing Education for library staff has included mindfulness webinars, interactive juggling training, and a Spanish Language discussion group. There are many services that are now online but the most important thing to remember is that just because the doors are closed, doesn’t mean the library is closed. A visit to statelibrary.sc.gov or your public library’s webpage will tell you all the online resources they offer.