by Jill Forman
Ventura’s libraries are alive and well! Their doors may be closed, but their community access is wide open, with ongoing outreach and services to the citizens of Ventura.
Welcome to the first column of “The Bookmark,” dedicated to informing Breeze readers about the activities and offerings of the libraries and the Friends of the Library.
Nancy Schram, Library Director, has this to say about her staff, “After the closure of the Ventura County Library branches on March 16 due to COVID-19, the library employees immediately went into action and pivoted quickly to find safe ways to continue to provide library services and resources in as many ways possible. I’m so proud of the Ventura County Library team.”
At the beginning of the shutdown, the eLibrary proved to be invaluable. During the month of April, checkouts of eBooks increased 80%. In response, the library system made considerable investment in increasing the eLibrary offerings, which now consist of over 100,000 ebooks.
In May, The Ventura County Library website rolled out a new look under the banner “Your Library at Home” featuring pages of interest to kids, teens, and adults. It is a onestopshop for individuals, parents, and teachers looking for librarian-curated lists of online resources for distance learning as well as fun. For those less comfortable with online resources, there are “Video Tutorials” and “Need Help?” Live Chat options.
Librarians began livestreaming and recording Storytimes, including bilingual Storytimes and STEAM themed Storytimes. One of the Storytimes has logged 6,000 views! Storytimes are available at the Ventura County Library Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/VenturaCountyLibrary68759970694/) and YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/vencolibraryVideo.)
In June, the library resumed lending out physical materials –with patrons using the online catalog to request items with curbside pickup. During the hours for curbside pickup, you can also speak to a librarian on the phone or chat online through the vencolibrary.org website.
Did you know the library will buy books you want to read? There is a link on the website, “Tell Us What to Buy.” Requests are reviewed; if the book is approved it is sent to your house! After reading it, you take it to your branch to be added to the collections.
Here are a few more of the accomplishments of the Ventura library system during the pandemic:
Enabled over 600 children to participate in Virtual “Summer Reading Program 2020”
Provided school districts with thousands of student “e-Cards” to connect to free library resources and books online
Gave out 3,000 STEAM takeaway kits to children during Summer 2020
Offered free, live online Homework Help and Tutoring in English and Spanish, 7 days per week, 63 hours per week
Provided Universal Free Public Wi-Fi outside all branches, 12 hours per day at each location
Distributed over 600 Grab-and-Go book/snack bags this summer at Avenue Library
Truly a remarkable record of achievement. Schram concludes, “The Ventura County Library continues to provide much needed library services during these challenging times, and we are here for you and your family. Our libraries have always been needed, but with the pandemic and resulting economic hardship for so many, our libraries are absolutely vital.”