Thursday, July 9, 2020

We're Re-opening - Should We Do In-Person Programming This Fall?

Image by Viktor Ivanchenko from Pixabay
A recent wispublib query asked: "As summer winds down, my brain is starting to plan for fall. I'd love to get perspectives on fall programming - are you planning to host any in-person programming through the end of the year? If so, what precautions/accommodations will you be putting in place?"

Our guest post from Abby Bussen at the Muskego (WI) Public Library, in answer to the above question, breaks down what she has been thinking and working on as her library navigates this very question. She writes:

I just posed this question on Storytime Underground last week!

Fall is only 2 months away and boy, Wisconsin cases aren’t leveling off or going down in a way that would make me feel comfortable with resuming in-person programming. But I started researching what small businesses are doing to mitigate risks, looked at the DPI plans for schools, and started noodling some ideas.

I put together this list for my director that would show what we would have to do in order to keep both patrons and staff safe. Here’s what I sent to her in early June (yes, I know. I’ve been stressed and thinking about this since like the end of May. You know how I do.):

So far, what I’m including in that list is:
  • Required registration (we currently don’t require registration, so this would be a change for patrons and staff)
  • People registering for classes in chunks (like registering for a 10 week session as opposed to just registering for one at a time, which allows us to cohort our attendees)
  • Limited class sizes with strictly enforced social distancing (easier said than done with littles)
  • Making up for the limited number of spaces in a class by offering more classes (so instead of 2 morning classes that would accommodate a total of 50-60 kids and their 40-50 grown ups, offering maybe 3 shorter morning classes and 2 afternoon classes that would amount to the total of our 2 morning classes)
  • Air purifier in the room
  • More time between classes to allow for the space to be sanitized by staff
  • No before or after class playtime
  • Masks required for adults (older kids too – I’m realistic and know that babies and toddlers aren’t gonna be great at masks, but most adults and older kids can wear face masks)
  • If masks are mandatory, will the library be providing one-use masks for those that don't have them. That would be an unanticipated cost.
  • Taking temperatures at the storytime room door
  • No items handed out (shakey eggs, rhythm sticks) because how many times have I seen a kiddo drop their eggs, waddle over to another kid and steal their eggs? Every single storytime.
  • Kids aren't masters of hygiene or boundaries, so we will have to create and stick to guidelines to ensure everyone knows the expectations. As we've seen in the past, many grownups bring kids to programs when they are quite sick and my cute "I love your kids, but I don't love their germs!" warnings have largely gone unrecognized.
  • Will city or county attorneys want program attendees to sign waivers? It might be smart for libraries to reach out to their city/county attorneys for advice on waivers.hold-harmless agreements.
The biggest issue with programming this way that I see is that it will limit the childrens' staff members' reference desk availability as we would be spending a significant portion of our time prepping for, performing, and cleaning up after programs. Fall is so far away, but it's worth looking ahead now because all of this will mean a significant amount of planning time for all involved. I want our solution to be equitable, safe, and well thought out.

Now, this all presumes that we’d have the same storytime attendance numbers as usual. It is quite possible that we would experience a drop in attendance as many parents might still not feel comfortable in an indoor group environment.

The majority of responses to my Storytime Underground question were from libraries that are not resuming programs until at least 2021. Some even expressed that they are more worried about fall programming than summer programming, as many in the summer can do socially distanced outdoor programs and fall and winter, at least in Wisco, make that a little more difficult.

I do think this is an important topic for us all to discuss! Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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