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Bundaberg Region libraries overcome COVID challenge

libraries 2020 review
Peta Browne, Manager Library Services, Jaala Beauchamp, Youth Services Librarian and Stephen Harris, Information Services Librarian, are all smiles at the prospect of an exciting year ahead for Bundaberg Regional Libraries.

Last year was a time of innovation for Bundaberg Regional Libraries staff members and volunteers as they adapted to the changes caused by COVID-19.

The usual statistics fail to paint an accurate portrayal of a busy year for the region’s libraries.

The almost 470,000 physical items loaned in 2020 was well down on previous years due to COVID-19 restrictions and eight weeks of library closures.

Similarly, the overall 156,000 visitors to libraries last year was down significantly because of the closures and visitor limits.

However, Bundaberg Regional Council portfolio spokesperson Cr John Learmonth said there had been some highlights in a difficult year for the region’s libraries.

“Our staff grasped the opportunity to innovate their service delivery to include more online programming and ensure the libraries continued to provide their outstanding service to the community,” Cr Learmonth said.

“It was important during periods of travel restriction that our community was able to maintain social connection with loved ones, even if only online, and to escape reality a little by reading digital format books, and our libraries were able to help meet these needs.

“Our libraries staff were pleased to have been able to contribute to the community’s overall well-being by providing these enhanced services and look forward to continuing to provide the same friendly, helpful service now that a greater degree of normality has returned to our lives.”

Library services manager Peta Browne said the heightened demand for online services resulted in an increase in the number of workshops conducted by the libraries as COVID restrictions prevented in-person programs from being hosted for much of the year.

“My team transitioned early and commendably to offer online programming, mostly via Zoom,” Peta said.

“There were general chats to ensure people weren’t socially isolated, movie viewings and discussions, chess, craft activities, kitchen science, digital literacy, eSports, Facebook live storytelling and more.

“These sessions were very favourably received by our community and many will continue post-COVID restrictions.”

Peta said children’s activities and school visits were other areas affected by closures and restrictions, but the library’s Youth Services team compensated by implementing online storytelling and craft activities and creating other activities for children to do at home.

“Youth Services staff worked with other departments including Alexandra Park Zoo, Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery and the Moncrieff Entertainment Centre to present other online programming events, including a zoo visit,” she said.

Statistics may indicate it was a quiet year for Bundaberg Region libraries but 2020 provided a positive opportunity to enhance already valuable community services as they embark on an exciting 2021 which will feature a return to more face-to-face programming.

This includes chess, coding and virtual reality gaming and learning applications, and a special show ‘There Once was a Puffin’ by Little Match Productions, sponsored by First 5 Forever and in partnership with the Moncrieff Entertainment Centre.

Chess and coding will also continue to be offered online.

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