The majority of activities in which individuals used to participate are unavailable these days as folks hunker down at home and maintain social distance.

But reading can be done from anywhere, thus the staff at New Milford Public Library remains busy behind the library’s doors that are closed to the public until further notice.

Staff is handling requests by email, and working on several fronts to engage readers, help patrons navigate the world of e-content and share resources with the community.

Collaboration with the school district

The library is spearheading is a collaborative effort with New Milford Public Schools on two fronts.

First, the library has teamed up with the school district to arrange for the distribution of books to families.

The two entities are also exploring how eContent can be shared across their respective platforms.

“We’re so excited about it,” said Leslie Schlemmer, NMPL technical services associate.

Books were first made available to families in March, according to Eileen Monaghan, a school board member who is helping with the distribution of the books at Sarah Noble Intermediate School.

The project will resume Wednesday, with an additional 600 Scholastic books.

The Scholastic book giveaway was made possible through a recent combined undisclosed donation from an anonymous donor and the FRIENDS of New Milford Library.

The funds were earmarked to “get books into students’ hands,” according to Schlemmer.

Books will be available moving forward on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the front entrance of SNIS on Sunny Valley Road. Books are sorted by reading level and are free. Residents must wear masks.

The paperback books were ordered through Scholastic, which offers a literacy partnership program.

“We are trying to do everything we can during this time to help the community and use our resources to get resources out to the community because we’re closed,” Schlemmer said. “This is one way we can help the community.”

“It’s a wonderful thing that we can collaborate with the schools,” she added.

Monaghan, who holds a degree in children’s literature, said the first wave of books earlier this spring were geared toward individuals in Pre-K through high school/adult.

She said the kids who received books so far have been “enthusiastic.”

The library is also exploring a way to share its eContent with the school district via Baker & Taylor’s Community Sharing Program, which helps public libraries serve the needs of K-12 students and schools.

Alisha DiCorpo, assistant superintendent of schools, said she heard about the possibility of linking the library and school district library from NMPL’s Amy Berkun, young adult services librarian, and Lori Cerra, New Milford High School’s library media specialist, earlier this month.

“I loved the idea, especially, since moving to distance learning, teachers and instructional coaches have had to work to find online sources that would provide children with access to books they could read from home at no cost that aligned with our curriculum,” DiCorpo said.

“Many companies did offer free services due to COVID-19, however, many of those subscriptions come at a cost when they expire, and so this is a timely resource that can support our students and teachers whether we are physically in school or are learning virtually,” DiCorpo related.

The assistant superintendent said she has also been working closely with teachers and instructional coaches on summer reading initiatives.

“In order to engage in the activities, children will need access to a variety of books from different genres and authors,” DiCorpo said. “Therefore, having access to a large number of books that children can choose from, at their appropriate reading level, will be more important than ever.”

“Online access to the libraries will also be helpful for children who don't have a library card or who can't visit the library over the summer months but are interested in choosing a book of interest to them,” she said.

The Community Sharing Program between the school and library is expected to move forward, but the launch date has yet to be announced, DiCorpo said.

Community donations

Beyond the library’s collaboration with the school system, the library also donated books to Camella’s Cupboard this spring.

Sue Ford, head of the library’s children’s department, said the state library made a donation of books to several municipal libraries, including New Milford. Those books were given to Camella’s Cupboard.

Berkun is also working with the New Milford Coalition for Awareness and New Beginnings and the schools to get books into children’s hands this summer, too.

The library will help NMCAN select books and then, through funding provided by NMCAN, purchase the books for students in grades K-2.

“The purpose of this initiative is to increase elementary children's level of reading-for-fun while incorporating valued lessons on compassion and kindness,” said Jason O’Connor, chairman of NMCAN, in a letter of explanation for the project.

“With declining levels of reading-for-fun in adolescent and teenage students, these books will look to bring families together to foster and develop relationships, as well as nurture the love for reading,” he said.

“Books will cover topics of friendship, inclusion and kindness, helping others, and being unique and true to oneself,” he said.

Library resources & eContent

Library staff has been in communication with teachers and the public to educate them on how to utilize its digital services for the past several months.

EBooks and eAudio live on a platform. The library subscribes to several platforms, including RB Digital, Access 360, Hoopla and Kanopy, all of which offer various media.

Schlemmer emphasized the library’s use of the Simply E app, which enables patrons to check out eBooks, eAudio, video, music and more.

Beyond that, library staff is constantly working to improve its digital resources.

Over the last two months, the library has not needed to purchase as many print books, so some funds have shifted from print to eContent, giving patrons more options with eContent.

“People don’t’ realize that (eBooks are) there,” Ford said. “It’s not the same as holding a book, but…as long as you have a reader, you can read a book.”

A digital literacy associate is available to help patrons navigate the digital resources. Interested patrons should contact the library through the website at www.newmilfordlibrary.org.

The library offers a YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKixVnWL1ke-xl7Nmev6mDQ?view_as=subscriber