• Pamela Jones

Business as unusual for S. Taranaki libraries


South Taranaki Librarians have been running online events with some of our favourite New Zealand authors. Pamela Jones writes about how their libraries have been responding to their patrons unique needs in unusual times.

As Librarians our mission and purpose is to provide access and connect knowledge to the needs of our communities. In lockdown that hasn’t changed. What has changed is our service delivery. It has required library staff to expand their roles, increase their support and think innovatively to ensure our customers can thrive in this new environment. We had to quickly transition from physical spaces to providing our library services in new spaces in the online environment. The trickiest part was deciding what to offer, and what tools to use. If our customers couldn’t physically get to us then we’d go to them. In the first few days staff contacted every customer to see what they needed from us.

If our customers couldn’t physically get to us then we’d go to them. In the first few days staff contacted every customer to see what they needed from us.

Pre-lockdown, libraries contacted schools and hundreds of students signed up for library cards so they could access eBooks. We were particularly interested in the wellbeing of our younger members. Our teens appeared very savvy with the online environment and were working it out themselves. Young parents, however, were missing regular baby times and struggling to entertain youngsters for a whole day at home. One staff member ensured regular online contact was made through a Facebook forum. We are currently looking at providing videos with ideas, tips and tricks for entertaining their baby or toddler at home. This is a resource we feel would have ongoing value. Our primary and intermediate customers missed school, their friends and their regular weekly activities. We were asked when Book and STEM Club would start again and could we help because they’d 'finished all their books'.

Our primary and intermediate customers missed school, their friends and their regular weekly activities. We were asked when Book and STEM Club would start again and could we help because they’d 'finished all their books'.

It became apparent NZ authors were struggling with book releases and school visits being cancelled. New Zealand magazines closing meant many authors also lost another revenue stream. We have a strong connection with our authors, so a vision to re-invent the book clubs emerged. We’ve currently held six book clubs, all via Zoom. At each we’ve shared what life is like in our bubbles. We’ve welcomed an author and/or illustrator to each session, providing a similar chat to those held for schools.

We have a strong connection with our authors, so a vision to

re-invent the book clubs emerged. We’ve currently held six book clubs, all via Zoom.

Kyle Mewburn was our trailblazer. As some parents were grappling to come to terms with new technology we had only one child attend with messages from parents explaining – ‘I’ll get there, I’m still figuring out what to do ….’ The session was magic. Eva (8) explained very succinctly how she didn’t fit in with her peers and was already on to writing her second book. Kyle was the ideal author for young Eva to engage with. Later Eva’s mother rang her local librarian overflowing with thanks and excitedly sharing what the session had meant to her daughter. We may have had only one participant, but that session remains a resounding success.

Later Eva’s mother rang her local librarian overflowing with thanks and excitedly sharing what the session had meant to her daughter.

We doubled our numbers for Nikki Slade-Robinson’s session but lost connection with Nikki part way through. By holding the telephone up to the computer, participants could hear Nikki walk through her slides, which we’d uploaded in advance…phew! Nikki showed photos of her first book – written when she was four. The next day a mum contacted us, showing a book her 5-year-old wrote and illustrated after attending Nikki’s session.

Meeting your favourite authors can be a motivating experience for budding writers!

Our third author/illustrator Paul Beavis ran a mini drawing demo, with the children following along and ending up with their rendition of Mrs Mo’s Monster. It was fun, interactive and the nine children were buzzing. Seeing his latest book drew squeals of delight.

It was fun, interactive and the nine children were buzzing. Seeing his latest book drew squeals of delight.

By the time we hit Des Hunt’s session, parents had hit their stride with technology – we had 49 participants. It takes a bit of skill to negotiate all the excitement, with everyone wanting to chat with him. While different, the bonus of these Zoom book clubs is all children throughout the district can meet an author.

The highly successful Des Hunt Zoom session

We are currently working with this year’s judges to present Zoom writing workshops for the Ronald Hugh Morrieson Literary Awards. We know it won’t be the same as our usual physical format, however, there are some benefits; we may be able to include more schools and thereby reach more students. As we move into the school term it’s apparent we won’t be hosting school visits to the library any time soon. Instead we plan to offer virtual author visits. We can already see huge benefits for our more remote small rural schools. Schools like Ngamatapouri, one hour up the Waitotara Valley, can be cut off by river flooding many times during winter. They often miss out on author visits due to tight touring schedules. Zoom author visits would be an ideal fit and an exciting departure from lessons for those children!

We know it won’t be the same as our usual physical format, however, there are some benefits; we may be able to include more schools and thereby reach more students.

In South Taranaki we definitely feel that we are able to provide business as usual just in a more unusual way.

Pamela jones

Pam is the District Children’s and Young Adult Librarian for South Taranaki Libraries. Her job involves designing and delivering inspiring innovative services to the district’s children and young people that will help shape their lives and thereby shape the future of the South Taranaki community.Pam was the Judge Convenor for the 2017 NZ Book Awards for Children & Young Adults and was a Judge for the LIANZA Children’s Book Awards for three years. She convenes the Taranaki Secondary School Literary Challenge and the annual Ronald Hugh Morrieson Literary Awards. She has been a semi regular contributor to Library Life. Pam is an Associate & Fellowship Member of LIANZA.

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