CASA GRANDE — Once a week, Casa Grande youth librarians David Brown and Julie Martinez sit down in front of an audience to read a book specifically chosen for children. The long-standing Storytime hour includes songs, stories, rhymes and sometimes costumes and puppets.
But the coronavirus has changed the way Storytime is presented. With in-person group activities temporarily unavailable, Storytime, like many of the library’s other programs, has gone virtual.
Brown and Martinez now read Storytime books to a camera rather than a live audience of children.
“It’s been a challenge, but our online videos have given us a way to reach out to the community and keep them engaged,” Martinez said.
Since the coronavirus prompted the shutdown of the libraries in March, staffers have made more than 40 videos, which can be viewed on the Casa Grande Public Library Facebook page.
New videos are posted almost daily. On Mondays, performances and Book Bites are posted, Tuesdays feature Lego-themed videos, Wednesday is Storytime, Thursday is a craft or puppet show and Friday is Science Day.
The videos reach an audience of about 400 families a week.
“Our first few videos had several thousand views,” Brown said. “And the feedback has been very good.”
Martinez’s children, Luke, 10, and Lola, 7, are also involved in some of the library’s video programming.
Luke hosts science videos for children that feature activities such as how to make a lava lamp, crystals or edible elephant toothpaste.
Lola often reads books to children on video. In a recent video, she read the book “Pizza Day,” then demonstrated how to make a pizza on English muffins.
Many of the library’s annual summer events and activities are also online this year, including its scheduled performances and shows.
“Every Monday we’ll have a performance, but rather than in person, it will be virtual,” Brown said. “We have bands, cultural events, dancing and other great events planned for this summer, but nothing will be held in person.”
The annual summer reading program, which encourages children and adults to read throughout the summer, began June 1. Registration is online at cg.azsummerreading.org and participants may log the book they’ve read on the website through July 18.
Last year, about 1,500 readers took part in the summer reading program and the library distributed about 800 free books.
This year, rather than the annual pool party kickoff event at Palm Island Family Aquatic Center, the summer reading program features weekly activity grab bags for participants. Each bag includes activities for entire families.
“The activities could include different things like building a ship or doing Mad Libs to practice nouns and adjectives or it might have a make-your-own-book activity,” Martinez said.
The grab-and-go bags and paper reading logs may be picked up at the Main Library Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Librarian Julie Andersen is creating a virtual art gallery for the area’s teen artists. Teens can submit a photo of any of their own original artwork to be displayed in the gallery that will be posted online.
“We also have writing contests and maybe a paint night planned,” Andersen said.
While the Vista Grande Library remains closed due to the pandemic, the Main Library lobby is open with curbside pickup available. Patrons may either reserve materials online or visit the lobby for staff assistance. As well as books, the library has videos, DVDs and music available to borrow.
Some library services, such as reserving a study room, using a laptop or printing and copying are also available.
“We’d like people to know that we’re still here,” Andersen said. “The library looks different, some of the programs are different, but the staff is here and the library is open.”