Libraries Staying Connected To Patrons With Online and Outdoor Events

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, libraries continue to adapt and find creative ways to stay connected to their communities. From drive-in WiFi, grab and go book pickup, and modified services and programs, libraries are going above and beyond to meet the needs of patrons while staying connected online and outdoors. 

If your library has outdoor space or a local park area available (and recommended safety guidelines are followed) outdoor programming paired with an online component would be a great way to stay connected to patrons. Many programs that were previously held indoors can be moved outdoors (when weather appropriate) like storytime, art class, yoga, or crafting. These can also be streamed online to your social media channels just as they would be indoors. 

We’ve compiled some tips that can help your library plan for your outdoor and online programming. 

8 Tips For Successful Outdoor Programming 

  1. Plan Ahead

This may seem like a no-brainer, but along with your regular planning, brainstorm with some colleagues and ask, “What could go wrong?”

What will you do if participants don’t follow protocol? How will you handle participants who are exhibiting illness symptoms? Think about all the things that could happen and arm yourself with contingency plans.

  1. Do a practice run-through

Prepare your program as you would normally indoors and think through any adjustments that need to be made for an outdoor venue. Do you need a tent? Chairs? Tables? If you’re going to be recording and sharing to your social media channels plan who will record, upload, and do any promotion of the event. 

  1. Limit Registration

To ensure your outdoor program meets the legal gathering limits and you have enough room to social distance, require participants to register and place a limit on registration.

  1. Set Safety Guidelines

Make sure to clearly state your safety guidelines to inform patrons. If masks are required, have disposable masks on hand for those who forgot. You could even have printed out instructions for DIY at-home face masks so patrons can make their own at home. 

If social distancing measures will be in place, have clearly marked traffic areas, circles for seating, and signage explaining the guidelines. Having a visual reminder of where to sit and stand is helpful for everyone, especially the littlest patrons. Having a few hand sanitizer stations would be a good idea, too. 

  1. Provide Individual Supplies

If you’re hosting a craft activity, prepare individual supply kits ahead of time for each person. This way everyone gets what they need and can maintain social distancing.

  1. Test Your Setup

Make sure to give your program a run-through before the actual event. Since people will be spread out, consider using a microphone so you can be heard and test the audio. If you’re hosting a storytime, consider books with big pictures and words, or create big posterboards with the print out images from the book, or printouts for each family so they can follow along on their socially distanced seating area. 

  1. Communicate

As you start to promote your program make sure to communicate the guidelines and what patrons should expect. This helps attendees follow safety measures and feel safe.  Communicate the guidelines before and during the event. 

  1. Adjust as needed

As you offer more programs you’ll get a feel for the flow of things and what needs to be adjusted, what’s working, and how to move forward. This is uncharted territory so do what’s best for your library and patrons to make sure everyone has a good time and is safe. 

More Ideas To Stay Connected Through Outdoor Programming

Patrons are looking for new and fun things to do, especially families, so offering a safe way to stay connected online and outdoors helps strengthen your ties to the community. It’s also a great way to promote your library’s vast array of books. You could pair activities with available books and resources for additional learning and fun. Create book bundles for every age group related to the program you’re offering. 

  • Nature photography( presented by a staff amateur photographer)
  • Biking, presented by a local biking organization
  • Historic walking tours
  • Wildflower hikes
  • Host a gardening program – grow plants in little cups then plant them outside.
  • Have a nature crafts program.  
  • Host an “animals in winter” program. If possible share some of their furs and talk about hibernation.
  • Make a collage from things found in nature.
  • Host a program about recycling at the library. Promote your library’s recycling program and take it one step further this year. 
  • Host a program about a specific animal or season and offer a craft to coordinate with that theme

Even if you don’t offer any programs on outdoor recreation, you can still maintain lists of recommended websites that have helpful links to local parks and recreation groups or nearby outdoor attractions. These selections are great for locals looking for more information on their area and for visitors who want to enjoy the natural elements of your community.

WhoFi provides libraries with wireless session counts, for advocacy, operational improvements related to the patron experience, and for the annual PLS and state surveys. If you want to learn more about staying connected online and outdoors, or how libraries can use WiFi insights to improve patron services, schedule a demo to see how it all works.