The Grand Island Public Library’s annual summer reading program will continue this year, albeit virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Celine Swan, youth and family services librarian, said the program, “Imagine Your Story,” kicked off last week with a magician, but its weekly programming will begin at 10:30 a.m. Monday with the “Wildlife Encounters” program broadcast live on the library’s Facebook page. A program will be on the page every Monday at that time.

Swan said some of the programs will be broadcast live, while others will be prerecorded.

“The summer reading program is going to be a new experience for some of us that are a little bit older,” she said. “I think the kids will really have it figured out because they have been doing Zoom with their schools. We are doing a virtual summer reading program, so all of our programs will be online.”

In addition to Monday virtual programs, Swan said, Tuesdays will feature lap sits, while Wednesdays and Thursdays will feature stories and crafts, and “big kids” programs, respectively.

“The staff has done an awesome job picking our theme, ‘Imagine Your Story,’” she said. “We have lots of things on fairy tales, science and hands-on things. We have incorporated some of those into our programs where, if the kids are doing a craft, we might let them know they need to stop and pick up some materials they can use to do their crafts.”

Library Director Steve Fosselman and Swan said the library is planning to have virtual programming all summer, even if restrictions lift to allow them to offer in-person programming. Swan said it is easier for the library to plan programs with the assumption that they will all be virtual.

“Some of the performers we have been working with for several years,” Fosselman said. “When they come out and do a program, it becomes an enchanting type of atmosphere. They are having to adapt, so everybody is adapting to this new normal and they are doing it in a way that brings a lot of credit to the profession of librarianship and to all of the learning and literacy aspects that we have.”

Swan said the goal of the virtual summer reading program is to get kids excited about the theme and reading. She said the library is currently offering curbside pickup, where patrons can go to its website or call to place holds on library items.

After a patron places a hold, the library will contact the patron and arrange a contact-free curbside pickup appointment on the west side of the library.

“One of the things we have done to help get the books into the kids’ hands is we have added some book packs,” Swan said. “For example, if a mom wants 10 books on dinosaurs, we can put together some little packs of books that can be checked out easily.”

Shaun Klee, adult and technical services librarian, said kids and adults are able to log their minutes on the Beanstack app and website to earn badges, which they can redeem for prizes such as “Imagine Your Story”-themed bags, water bottles and other merchandise.

“A lot of kids will read just because they love to read and challenge themselves. But there are other kids who really need to have a prize and we are still going to have drawings for them,” Swan said. “We work with a lot of community partners, such as restaurants, businesses, the Nebraska State Fair, and Parks and Recreation, to provide prizes.”

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