Offering Library Programs at a Distance

July 24, 2020
Some PLIX community members in a PLIX online workshop!
Some PLIX community members in a PLIX online workshop!

The mission of PLIX has always been to co-create excellent and accessible creative STEAM learning opportunities for library patrons. Over the past several months, in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, our team has been focused on how to best support library professionals in offering library programs at a distance. With safety measures like social distancing and quarantining, as well as challenges like internet access and privacy concerns with online learning environments, there are new barriers for creating excellent programming.

With all of this in mind, we’ve been pondering a few questions:

  • How might we get patrons access to the materials and supplies they need to engage with library programs while at home? Which PLIX activities can be modified for use with basic household materials?
  • How does the role of the facilitator change when they can no longer be physically co-present with participants? How do our other facilitation techniques for creative learning allow themselves to be translated for online or at-a-distance facilitation?
  • Sharing and collaboration with peers is a very important aspect of any learning experience. How can we create a sense of community for patrons participating online or at-a-distance?
  • What new formats or tools can we use to reach patrons while at home? How can we ensure that internet access is not a barrier to participation?

While we certainly do not have all the answers to these questions, we’ve been working as a community to address some of them in a series of PLIX Online Workshops. These workshops have been great opportunities for us to connect online and to brainstorm with one another to design at-a-distance programming. Below, we’re sharing  a quick list of some inspiring ideas we’ve seen emerge from these conversations!

Ideas & formats for at-a-distance programming ✨

Make “to-go packs” of materials and resources

For library systems that are open for pickups, we love the idea of putting together packets of materials and resources that patrons can take home with them. We’ve heard from many librarians in the PLIX community that these “make & take” programs are a great way to support at-home learning experiences. Several of our PLIX activities (like Urban Ecology and Space Food) are great starting points for this format. One of our librarian collaborators, Dave from Michigan City Public Library, is using the PLIX Paper Circuits zine & Troubleshooting Tips in his to-go packs!

Livestream a make-along

Here, the facilitator streams a live session of them working through a making activity—inviting patrons at home to make alongside them. Even without video/audio being shared from participants, community can still be fostered. We love the Scratch team’s Create-Along’s, one-hour live-streamed sessions that engage with participants of all ages and experience levels.

Inspire your patrons with short videos

Here, the facilitator films a short video of themselves doing an activity that others can watch and follow along with at home (watch & make). One of our librarian collaborators, Blayne from Lexington Public Library, published a video of her sensory nature walk on Facebook, encouraging others to do the same safely in their neighborhood.

Have you tried one of these formats in your community? Do you have other ideas you’re excited to try out? We’d love to hear about them! Share your thoughts with our community in the PLIX Discussion Forum or join us at one of our upcoming workshops.