Library Virtual Programming Booms, In-Person Canceled Until 2021

Library Virtual Programming Booms, In-Person Canceled Until 2021

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By MADDY VITALE

The Ocean City Free Public Library continues to be busy with virtual programming and materials. And as the library navigates the COVID-19 pandemic, customers continue to utilize curbside pickup, as well as coming in, albeit with time limits imposed for safety protocols.

Following the city’s decision to cancel events during the fall, the library board announced that through December in-house programing and events will be canceled, the Library Board of Trustees members explained during a remote meeting Monday.

Library Director Karen Mahar detailed the decision and noted that the city canceled its special events through the fall.

Both decisions, she said, are for the safety of the public during the pandemic.

“We won’t have our Halloween or Christmas (events). We get hundreds of people for them,” Mahar said. “I don’t think it is worth the risk.”

Board of Trustees President Jennifer Shirk said of the decision, “I do have some people contact me to go into the library to look at books. Right now, I feel, especially the hours we are offering, I don’t think we need to make any adjustments. I think it is working out very nicely.”

The upside is that the library has successfully provided an abundance of programming to its patrons virtually, they noted.

“We will continue to steadily get new titles and things people request,” Mahar said. “People still want their materials.”

That is evidenced by the increase in e-Books. “The stats have gone up tremendously,” Mahar said.

The e-Books, since COVID-19 shut down the library, increased to nearly 7,000 since March – an increase of about 2,200 from 2019, she added.

Although the library is not doing in-house programing, as per COVID-19 safety guidelines for inside assembly issued by Gov. Phil Murphy, patrons surveyed appear very satisfied, Mahar pointed out.

Library Director Karen Mahar with Assistant Library Director Leslie Clarke, retiring in December, and Adult Programming Librarian Julie Brown.

“We have had a 99 percent positive (rate) for curbside services,” Mahar said. “You can see the trend of people still leery to come out. We are in a totally new norm. We are doing these things for the health and safety of staff.”

The computer room allotment of 30 minutes is also more than other libraries, she said.

Avalon’s library gives computer patrons 15 minutes to use the room and Longport offers 25 minutes.

In addition to the discussion about library services amid the pandemic, it was announced by the board that a longtime employee, Assistant Library Director Leslie Clarke, will be retiring in December after 41 years of service.

Overseeing the Children’s Department has been among Clarke’s duties, which also include supervising Adult Programing Librarian Julie Howard, the book mobile and working with the Friends and Volunteers.

“With a heavy heart, Leslie will be retiring on December 31,” Mahar said. “Leslie, you made the kids’ library what it is today.”

Clarke said of her library career, “It has given me a lot of pleasure. I enjoyed it.”

Children’s Librarian Taimi Kelley will be promoted to manager of that department at a salary of $53,000 upon Clarke’s retirement.

Clarke said Kelley and she have been planning a smooth transition and called Kelley a “creative person.”

Library officials agreed, saying Kelley, a six-year library employee, has earned the promotion. She maintains the children’s collections, performs puppet shows and other entertaining and educational activities for the patrons and is innovative, they noted.

Children’s Librarian Taimi Kelley, shown in a pre-pandemic photo, will be promoted to manager of the Children’s Department.