By MADDY VITALE
The Ocean City Free Public Library (OCFPL) is doing everything it can to give patrons a host of virtual programming to replace the in-person lectures, seminars and other events that were stopped nearly a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Longtime library patrons and those who are newcomers are enjoying the virtual alternative to the traditional programming, explained OCFPL Director Karen Mahar during a virtual Board of Trustees meeting Monday.
“We have an array of virtual programming,” Mahar noted. “It has been really well-attended.”
Mahar said Adult Programming Librarian Julie Howard has done an excellent job handling the virtual programming, and the programs from authors to antique dealers who offer appraisers to trivia nights, have been very well received.
“We had an author (Debbie Macomber) last month with 300 attendees virtually. The feedback has been tremendous,” Mahar said of the programming. “People ask if we are still going to do this. Virtual programs have been very successful for all ages.”
On March 31, the library is partnering with new Historical Museum Director Kate Devaney for a virtual trivia night. Attendees will try their hand at how well they know Ocean City’s history. More information will follow at www.oceancitylibrary.org.
The library, located inside in the Ocean City Community Center, has been operating with limited hours with all safety protocols in place to strictly adhere to safety requirements, including Plexiglas dividers, hand-sanitizing stations and self-checkout stations.
The hours of operation for in-person visits continue to be shortened. The hours are Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and extended curbside hours Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Mahar noted that a lot of people ask if the library would continue the virtual programming after the hours expand and life returns to a bit more normal after COVID-19 vaccinations become more readily available.
“Our virtual programming has been very successful for all ages,” Mahar said. “We definitely would investigate continuing them.”
StoryWalk, which began in the fall, is a reading program for families held on various days and times each month at Lake Memorial Park, 407 Wesley Ave.
The next StoryWalk will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday.
Mahar said this StoryWalk will celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day, which is officially Feb. 17. Children’s Librarian Taimi Kelley is in charge of the program.
“It should work out well. StoryWalk is a lot of fun. We will ask the families to bring in hearts that we are printing out and they can write kind things on them,” Mahar said. “We are also doing giveaways.”
In addition, the hope is to permanently host StoryWalk at the park, she said.
Mahar put an application in with the city seeking approval.
She added that she is meeting with Mayor Jay Gillian and Vince Bekier, the city’s director of operations and engineering, to discuss making the park a permanent location for StoryWalk.
In other matters, the library hired a new assistant library director, Kathryn Brown. Leslie Clark retired from the position in December.
Brown is a longtime library employee and an excellent choice for the position, Mahar said after the meeting.
She managed the library’s circulation department, among other duties.
Brown is taking the lead on starting back up the library’s Bookmobile.
“We are just delivering and picking up from our homebound,” Brown said. “It is doing well. We keep adding patrons and they are happy to have the services back.”
Also, new Board of Trustees member Anne Guy attended her first meeting Monday.
“I would like to welcome our newest board member, Anne Guy,” said Vice President of the Board of Trustees Fred Marcell.
Guy said she grew up vacationing in Ocean City. She and her husband split their time between the resort and Massachusetts.
“My great uncles introduced the family to Ocean City. We enjoy the island. My mom came down her entire life,” Guy said. “I am thrilled to be able to give back to the city that has given so much to me and my family.”