The library got creative this past year in order to continue providing services to its patrons.

Something new has been added nearly every month since the Wood County District Public Library closed its doors in March 2020.

Director Michael Penrod said his team had to go from normal, to what just happened and how to get through.

Last month’s meeting was held March 15, was one year and one day from the time the library was told to close for three week.

“At that point I was thinking, wow, we’re going to be closed for three weeks. I’ll get my office cleaned out and then we’ll be back to normal,” Penrod said at the meeting.

The doors were shuttered for two months.

Michele Raine, deputy director for library services, described the innovations done during the past year.

A week after the pandemic closed the library, Youth Services Coordinator Maria Simon launched the “Bear Hunt” and “Bear Hug Ohio” initiatives.

“If you were walking through your neighborhoods, there were bears everywhere and it really lifted spirits,” Simon said, adding she made a map of all the homes that had bears in their windows. “It was something that we could do together.”

On March 30, Simon launched the first online story time while working from home.

Staff learned a software program called Handbrake to condense file sizes for emailing.

“That first month, not only did we wrap our minds about what was happening, we jumped in with both feet to create content and learn new skills,” Raine said.

Information Services staff also launched “how-to” videos for, eMedia products and a crafts and hobbies reference center.

In April, the library did its first Facebook Live event by broadcasting a Ukulele Club meeting and then added video poetry readings for National Poetry Month.

Patrons could begin applying for a library card from their home and immediately begin using it.

Kristin Wetzel, information services coordinator, moved the Coffee Talk book club meetings to a virtual format. Twice weekly, virtual story times were offered.

Simon in May launched Flipgrid with community helpers reading books, and the Atrium opened for self pickup in order to keep staff safe and prevent them from always passing each other to retrieve books.

Curbside services began May 18 and home delivery became available.

The Fun Size Storytime brand was launched on Facebook and YouTube. Stories were eight to 10 minutes long, geared toward children’s attention spans, Raine said.

The library in June launched its Summer Reading Program as a virtual event with hero training missions and virtual volunteers to perform community service missions.

Kids could go online, record their reading minutes and earn prizes, Raine said.

“I’m just really thrilled at the amount of work that happened in a short amount time so that we did not say we were canceling the summer,” she said.

The building re-opened July 7 with an occupancy counter, and the time capsule scheduled to be opened in the Children’s Place becomes a live, virtual event on Facebook.

Using an estate gift, large yard games to check out were added in August so families could have at-home activities. The library launched the OverDrive collection of ebooks and audiobooks to address wait times for digital books.

The next innovation was in October, when Atrium concerts were started with solo musicians and livestreamed on Facebook.

No wind instruments or singers have been allowed, Raine said.

Information Services staff launched virtual museum visits in December.

“As winter was closing in and people were thinking ‘we are just so over COVID and we are completely stuck in our homes,’ the team reached out to the Wood County Museum, the Hancock Historical Museum and the Rutherford B. Hayes Museum and did virtual tours through Facebook Live,” Raine said.

“These are opportunities to collaborate in ways that we never would have expected before,” she said. “It’s just been phenomenal the creativity that people have brought to the table and the willingness to try.

“Trying is always something that we look forward to doing and sometimes it doesn’t work, but you’re not going to get anywhere if you don’t try,” Raine said.

In January, the Children’s Place held a mock Caldecott Award and recorded 25 stories on Facebook in preparation for the event.

The curbside app was launched to inform staff when someone was on the way, giving them time to get items pulled.

Another good thing about the curbside app is its use by families who want to pick up large amounts of book, Raine said. The app checks all of them out with one click, saving time at checkout.

“It benefits us a great deal but is also benefits the patron because we’re ready when they get there,” she said.

In February, using a gift from the Wood County Genealogical Society, the library began loaning a scanner and VHS converter for home use.

“I feel so proud of everything people have accomplished,” Raine said.

“There are a lot of things we’re not going to be going back to. We’ve innovated and we are proud of it and we’re going to keep going forward.”

A Wi-Fi booster also has been added to the outside of the building, to allow use of people in the parking lot.

Penrod said shared notes from patrons. There was one thanking staff for help in choosing books for a great-granddaughter, antoher for assisting sign up a person home ill with a library card, and a thank-you for curbside pickup.

“We hear day in and day out how people appreciate and value what we’re doing,” he said.