Hayden, South Routt libraries work to stay connected to community
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For the Hayden and South Routt public libraries, closing their doors to the communities they serve has been difficult.
When COVID-19 forced Hayden Public Library Director Ana Lash to close the library March 17, she began brainstorming ways to stay in touch with the library’s patrons, especially the ones she considers her regulars.
“It’s important that we’re connecting with our patrons and that they know we’re still here,” Lash said.
Her team started with simple things — setting up a table outside filled with books, newspapers, puzzles, yarn, kids’ activities and movies. Each item has been sanitized and is free for people to take.
“We’ve also placed a clipboard outside for people to leave us a note or a joke,” Lash said.
Her team is also utilizing social media and Zoom, hosting their weekly crochet group through the video platform.
“And most importantly, we are still hosting our grief support group every Monday at 4:30 p.m.,” Lash added.
However, Lash has recognized the library needs to find different ways to reach its more traditional readers and older patrons who are not as active online. They stay in touch with these patrons through handwritten letters. Lash said all five members of her team are writing letters and mailing them to library users. Lash believes right now, there’s something special about getting a letter from someone you know but aren’t able to currently see.
“It’s so important for me to be here for Hayden,” Lash said.
Debbie Curtis, director of the South Routt Library District, which includes the Oak Creek and Yampa public libraries, is also looking for different ways to connect with her patrons. Her team is currently working on launching a Facebook page, but with some community members without internet access, she’s having to think outside the box.
“I think it’s important we do that,” Curtis said.
Utilizing the Meals on Wheels program, Curtis has been adding requested books and movies to deliveries. Curtis said the program currently serves 30 to 35 people but is increasing all the time.
Curtis is also working with the Yampa mayor and Oak Creek town manager to create a story walk for children and their families. The walk would contain laminated book pages, placed a safe distance apart, for children to read as they walk around town. It’s a program still in the planning phases, but it’s something Curtis hopes they can build on as uncertainty still lingers on when the libraries will reopen.
With the future still uncertain, Curtis and Lash want their patrons to know they’re still there for them. Both the Hayden and South Routt libraries have free wifi for those who need it — safely from a car in the parking lot — and someone is available to take phone calls and assist community members with questions they might have about programs.
“I think the most important part I’m seeing is the human touch,” Lash said of this time of self-isolation. “We can’t touch each other, but there’s still some type of connections available, and we need that.”
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