Going Virtual: Programs and Insights from a Time of Crisis

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  • Description
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  • About the authors
  • Reviews

The creative programs shared in this book vividly demonstrate the ways in which library programming can make communities stronger and more resilient by creating lifelong learners, fostering conversation, and forging connections.  

From the moment the pandemic took hold in Spring 2020, libraries and library workers have demonstrated their fortitude and flexibility by adapting to physical closures, social distancing guidelines, and a host of other challenges. Despite the obstacles, they’ve been able to stay connected to their communities—and helped connect the people in their communities to each other, as well as to the information and services they need and enjoy. Ostman and ALA’s Public Programs Office (PPO) here present a handpicked cross-section of successful programs, most of them virtual, from a range of different libraries. Featuring events designed to support learning, spark conversation, create connection, or simply entertain, the ideas here will inspire programming staff to try similar offerings at their own libraries. Showcasing innovation in action as well as lessons learned, programs include

  • COVID-19 Misinformation Challenge, featuring an email quiz, to encourage participants to separate fact from fiction; 
  • weekly virtual storytimes;
  • community cooking demonstrations via Zoom;
  • an online grocery store tour, complete with tips about shopping healthy on a budget;
  • a virtual beer tasting that boasted 80 attendees;
  • socially distanced "creativity crates" for summer reading;
  • an online Minecraft club for kids ages 6 and up;
  • a Zoom presentation about grieving and funerals during COVID, featuring the director of a local funeral home;
  • Art Talk Tuesday, a one-hour, docent-led program; 
  • a virtual lecture on the history of witchcraft, presented by a public library in partnership with a university rare book room, that drew thousands of viewers;
  • "knitting for knewbies" kits for curbside pickup;
  • Songs from the Stacks, an ongoing virtual concert series in the style of NPR’s “Tiny Desk”;
  • a pink supermoon viewing party that included people howling at the moon together from their homes on Facebook Live;
  • and many others.

About This Book

Chapter 1    Learning 
Chapter 2    Conversation 
Chapter 3    Connection 
Chapter 4    Entertainment 


Sarah Ostman

Sarah Ostman is the communications manager in the American Library Association’s Public Programs Office, where she serves as editor of ProgrammingLibrarian.org, a web resource for library professionals. Before joining the ALA and the library field in 2014, she spent nearly a decade as a newspaper reporter, editor, and freelance writer. Ostman has an MA in journalism from Columbia College in Chicago and a BA in sociology and theater from Smith College in Massachusetts.

Public Programs Office (PPO)

ALA's Public Programs Office (PPO) empowers libraries to create vibrant hubs of learning, conversation and connection in communities of all types.

"Features programs with practical, affordable, and creative digital experiences plus a few real-world adventures in the mix ... This digitally oriented resource mostly benefits public librarians seeking to fill out community calendar activities on six- to twelve-month deadlines but will assist all types of libraries seeking clever programming to deliver in cyberspace. Recommended for professional collections in public libraries and programming librarians in schools or academic settings."
— Booklist

"Virtual delivery of programs, given a great boost by COVID, will be a continuing focus of libraries as they support their communities and seek to engage new groups. This book is recommended as a source of ideas for program content and means of delivery, and as a record of innovative responses by libraries during a global crisis."
— Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association