October 23, 2021

Libraries plan more outdoor activities as COVID lingers

Jamie Costa/staff reporter

Bri Self, left, and Diane Pamel, right, of Southworth Library read picture books to children for Stories in the Park at Montgomery Park in Dryden on Saturday.

DRYDEN — Erin Paczkowski and her 3-year-old son, Vincent, travel 30 minutes from Newark Valley to Montgomery Park in Dryden every Saturday to attend Stories in the Park, a children’s program hosted by Southworth Library.

“Programs had paused during COVID and have been outside since,” Paczkowski said Saturday. “All my kids were so excited (when they brought programs back).”

Libraries in the greater Cortland area plan for more outside events than usual this spring as the pandemic continues to delay the return of popular indoor programs.

Programs — adult book clubs, children’s book clubs and toddler story time — were put on hold at the start of the pandemic while libraries learned to navigate restrictions before hosting modified programs.

The best reading programs Paczkowski said she found are at the Southworth Library. Her sister, who lives in Lafayette, sometimes joins her on Saturdays.

“The kids love it (stories in the park), they love to read books and we have books for the kids to bring home,” said Diane Pamel, the library’s director. “We’re doing more outdoor events than we usually would because of COVID.”

Pamel polled parents to see what days worked best for them between Friday and Saturday. The responses prompted Pamel to rotate between the two for parents who work during the week.

On Saturday, around 15 children and their parents joined Pamel and library aide Bri Self to read two animals books and draw monsters. The books offered English and Spanish versions.

“Outdoor programs are pretty common practices right now with the libraries,” said Priscilla Berggren-Thomas, director of Phillips Free Library in Homer. “It seems like a lot of librarians are hoping to do a mix of in-person, outside and virtual events for people to attend that sometimes wouldn’t be able to.”

Phillips Free Library allows individuals to come into the library to study and Berggren-Thomas hopes to host small indoor programs, like educational programs and summer reading groups, as restrictions ease.

On Saturday, the Southworth Library will offer an Easter-themed reading and have DIY Easter egg hunt kits for kids to take home and do in their backyards.