Welcome to the April 2020 Special Edition of the newsletter of Let’s Move in Libraries. In this newsletter we highlight some of the ways public libraries have been adapting their services and programs to keep us healthy and moving during the COVID-19 Crisis. We will return to our regular newsletter structure in May 2020. Stay home, and stay safe!

Our featured image comes from Laois Libraries in Ireland. Since closing to the public this Irish public library has been mostly posting photos of Library Teddy living its best life at the library! A few days ago, Library Teddy decided to do some library yoga and promote how to stay active at home using library resources available through your computer or phone. We love this example of libraries creatively encouraging us to stay healthy, stay home, stay safe, keep moving, and have a laugh during these difficult times. Way to go!

Engaging in Nature Safely during a Pandemic

Within days of closing their physical facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19, public libraries started reminding their communities how to utilize their outdoor spaces and services, and their electronic resources, to stay connected to nature. We all know that access to nature is critical to our health, no more so during a crisis that finds us cooped up all day, every day.

In Moore, Oklahoma, librarians shifted a planned in-person program on how to get started gardening into a virtual, live-streamed event. Watch the recording on their YouTube channel.

In the small town of Globe, Arizona (population 7,532) the public library transitioned its Spring Walk/Run Club into an online group. As you can see from the below picture, this virtual community prompted families to get outside and hit the trails!

Beyond specific programs, librarians have using social media to remind their communities to take breaks in nature. The Bloomfield Township Public Library in Michigan says “Take time to see spring coming to Bloomfield Township. What did you notice today?”

Milton Public Library in Vermont encourages families to do some nature journaling, and around the world librarians are reminding patrons of how to utilize technology to remain connected to nature, even if you have to shelter in place. In England, Kingston Libraries hosted a “nature special live-stream” on Friday, March 27, to help families identify and download library electronic resources on nature and the great outdoors. Arizona’s Flagstaff Public Library shares “20 must-read books for nature lovers” available online, and New York’s Chappaqua Library shared how to “Beat the COVID-19 Blues With These Wildlife and Nature Livecams.”

And all across the country, librarians reminded their communities that they could continue to combine literacy and nature by enjoying StoryWalk® trails they had set up in area parks and greenways. A StoryWalk® is “an innovative and delightful way for children — and adults! — to enjoy reading and the outdoors at the same time.” Pages from a children’s book are separated and mounted along an outdoor path. Different libraries use different terminology to refer to this program. Look for terms like “StoryWalk,” “Story Walks,” “Story Stroll,” “Story Book Trail,” “Walking Storybook,” or other related terminology. When in doubt, the best way to find out if this service is available in your community is to call your local library! Most public libraries continue to offer phone and email services during the pandemic.

In Southhampton, Pennsylvania the public library launched what it calls a “Story Stroll” in Tamanend Park this March. An ABC affiliate in Philadelphia reported on this new library service:

“It has become particularly useful during this time of social distancing to avoid further spread of COVID-19. Families are bringing their children out to read at the park when they are otherwise stuck at home. No librarian guide is necessary, either. The outdoor atmosphere allows families to stay far away from each other and still enjoy the space.

There are plans to keep the stroll active until the library reopens, refreshing the choice of book every Friday. Southampton Free Library recommends contacting your local library to find out about story walks near you.

It’s a great alternative for a time when playgrounds are closed and sports are cancelled. However, please use your own discretion when leaving the house and practice social distancing to slow the spread of Coronavirus.”

Librarians are continuing to maintain their StoryWalks during the pandemic. In Fairfax County, Virginia, the public library tweeted on March 26 that “A new #StoryWalk book is up at Martha Washington Library and Mt Vernon RECenter! Find the deconstructed #childrensbook posted along the path between the upper parking lot and Fort Hunt Rd. Learn more about StoryWalks: https://bit.ly/3akOubD.” And on March 21, Henderson Libraries in Nevada shared that “It’s a beautiful day for a #StoryWalk! Best part, each page is way more than 6 feet away. Make sure you’re getting some fresh air and exercise, friends.”

In Salem, Massachusetts, librarians added a printed disclaimer at the front of their StoryWalk, stating “While it is important to observe social distancing … we hope you still enjoy time outdoors reading and laughing as a family. Do maintain at least six feet of physical space between your family and others while reading the story, and do not touch or allow your children to touch the signs themselves.”

Finally, more and more libraries have joined in the nation-wide Bear Hunt movement that started in mid-March 2020 as a way to encourage families to stay active outside during the pandemic. In Rochester, Minnesota, the public library initated a community bear hunt, based on the on the children’s book by Michael Rosen We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. The library encourages community members to place stuffed teddy bears in the windows of their homes. Local reporters describe what comes next: “Then the scavenger hunt begins, as families and children can go outside and find as many bears as possible.” Many other public libraries have also joined in this new movement.

In Ohio, Wood County District Public Library invites you to “exercise and get fresh air by enjoying a BEAR HUNT – look for teddy bears or the #WCDPL coloring sheet in your neighbors’ windows.” The library has instructions for how to do this on its website wcdpl.org/WCDPLBearHug. This is a great way to combine creativity, placemaking, access to the outdoors, and physical activity during these trying times. In Hays, Kansas, the library took a similar approach: But instead of coloring sheets they encouraged community members to use chalk to decorate sidewalks and share their creations with the hashtag #HPLchalkchallenge.

School libraries have also joined in! In Georgetown, Texas, the librarian for Cooper Elementary tweets on March 25 “We got outside for a nature scavenger hunt today.  Here are some pics of some of our finds,” encouraging the kids and families served by the library to do the same.

And before shelter in place ordinances went into effect, Keene Public Library in New Hampshire offered curb-side pick-up of “garden seeds and garden tools” available through their Library of Things. Place your request online and pick up the supplies you need to start gardening from your car.

Is your library doing something innovative to encourage families and children to stay connected to nature during the pandemic? Let us know! You’re also invited to share on our social media. We’re on FacebookInstagram, Twitter, and YouTube . We invite you to tag us in your posts!

Access to Movement and Community during a Pandemic

We also need to keep moving inside our homes during this pandemic! Librarians have stepped up to help with this as well, especially in the area of youth services. Here is some of what we’ve found.

Jersey City Free Library invites you to “Join John for a fun Yo Re Mi musical yoga class for children!

Mercer County Library System presents Story Stretchers with Miss Chrissy.

Pioneer Library System presents Nursery Rhyme Yoga.

The Westport Library put together a list of ideas you can do to stay active at home with kids.

The Harris County Public Library created this Yoga Story Time with Mrs. Celeste video.

Join Beale Memorial Library for this Baby Bounce video.

Matheson Memorial Library created this exercise board game to play at home and this activity game that combines literacy and movement.

Medway Public Library invites anyone around the world to join them for “Yoga for Kids even while the library is closed! Tune in to our Facebook page on Mondays and Wednesdays at 11 am for a Facebook Live session with Lauren of Mindful Minis Boston.”

And we particularly like the idea of Fraser Valley Regional Library in British Columbia, which hosted a “distanced digital dance to fight COVID-19 blues” on Friday, March 27. To encourage participation, the library asked people to share photos of themselves dancing at home as part of a community dance party. Here is what happened! Learn more about this program idea in reporting by the local newspaper and on the library’s Facebook page – linked to the article – which is the source of this photo.

Libraries have also been getting all ages moving at home through virtual programming. We have seen libraries host virtualYoga, Qigong, Tai Chi, Line Dancing classes, and much more! One of our favorites comes from Norton Public Library in Massachusetts.There, the library teamed up with two local senior centers to offer online Zoom fitness classes! This is a great example of a community coming together to help get us through this pandemic. The library has the technical expertise and the senior centers have the content expertise, and together they can get older adults safely moving together from home.

These virtual programs also help to keep us connected to each other. They build community! What are you trying to do at your library to build healthy communities during this crisis? Let us know!

We are also thrilled to share that our collaborator Geri-Fit, LLC, has opened up a virtual Geri-Fit® class that is free to the public during the time we’re all quarantined at home.  Theyx’re also including a Fall Prevention Exercise Sheet for those that don’t have computers or internet access. This guide sheet has the 15 most important strength training exercises that can be done at home.   This exercise guide can be emailed or sent by U.S. mail.  Virtual fitness access can be emailed upon request by filling out the Contact Link on geri-fit’s website at this link:  https://www.gerifit.com/gerifit/contact.asp.

We’re also thrilled to share that Katie Scherrer of Stories, Songs, and Stretches!(R) has made available free content for libraries and other organizations to share during this difficult time, including Mindfulness and Movement for Kids and Mindful Movement for Adults.

Continuing Education Opportunities

We also know that many librarians are thinking about taking advantage of continuing education opportunities during this pandemic. Here are some resources we recommend.

The book Healthy Living at the Library, written by Let’s Move in Libraries founder and director Noah Lenstra, is available for pre-order NOW!

Healthy Living at the Library: Now available!

To get a taste of the book, check out  the free webinar Dr. Lenstra recently led through the Niche Academy on Healthy Living at the Library. The webinar recording is now available on their website.

On April 8 at 11:00 am US Eastern, we will lead a free webinar through the Nebraska Library Commission’s NCompass Live on How to Add Movement to Library Programming. We will focus on easy techniques you can use to add movement to programs for all ages. From a mini dance party between stories to instance recess for adults, regular ten minute activity breaks have been identified by researchers and policy makers as effective ways to advance public health. Get the information and inspiration you need to weave physical activity into your library in all kinds of ways! Sign up here.

On April 15 at 2:00 pm US Eastern, we will be participating in a free webinar organized by non-profit America Walks on Unusual Bedfellows- Expanding and Developing New and Different Partnerships. We will join the CEO of American Forests and the Assistant Director for Parking Services in Columbus, Ohio, to talk about how and why more organizations (including public libraries!!) can get involved in the movement to support walkable communities for all. Attendees of this webinar will: Learn new and different ideas for partnerships to create walkable communities, Give examples of creative strategies to promote safe/ walkable spaces, and Discuss new ways to engage the community around walkability. Sign up here.

We also know this is a critically important time for self-care. We recommend utilizing the resources of library director, educator, and researcher Jenn Carson to help make it through this pandemic in good health. On February 27, library director, yoga instructor, and author Jenn Carson presented Taking Care of Us: Inreach for Library Staff for the National Network of Libraries of Medicine webinar series. She shared how physical literacy is not just for patrons, it’s for all of us! Check out the recording to get inspired!

If you missed this opportunity, Jenn is presenting online again on April 23, this time through SirsiDynix, on how to Feel Good, Do Good: How Offering Physical Literacy Programs at your Library Can Change Your Community. She will cover: Her triumphs and challenges getting these programs off the ground, a few self-care tips when implementing these programs, and How you can take these principles and create a new physical literacy program in your library. Sign up here!

Other resources

Did you know our logo is free to use? It’s true! We just ask that you share back what you do with it. We want to thank Gloucester County Library in for using our logo in your Fall 2019 Wellness Series! Go to our website to download our logo and add it to your promotional materials. Just let us know how you use it! The easiest way is to tag us on social media.
During the October 2019 meetings of our Advisory Groups, we decided to re-launch our online group on Facebook. We invite you to join the 100+ librarians already in the group. This is YOUR SPACE to ask questions, get advice, share successes and challenges, and generally get the support you need to make a difference in your community. Consider joining us, and if you have a question about chair-based, StoryWalk(r), or gardening, or any other program that includes movement and physical activity, go ahead and ask it in this group!
During each of the past four months, we’ve featured a different program idea, including music and movement, hands-on gardening, chair-based exercises, and StoryWalk(R). Check these out! We’ll be back with more featured programs in future newsletters.
Did we miss anything in this COVID-19 Special Edition? Let us know if there are other innovative things you’re doing that we haven’t featured! We want to shine a light on all the ways librarians are getting the word out on the power of movement and healthy living in library programming. You are always invited to reach out and share with us. Please also reminder to share with us any news on programs you may be offering. We always love hearing from you! Tag us on social media or email news directly through our website. We’d love to hear from you!

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Subscribe to the monthly Let’s Move in Libraries newsletter for monthly editions of success stories, educational opportunities, and food for thought that will deepen the impact of movement-based programs and services in public libraries. The Let’s Move in Libraries project focuses on how public libraries create opportunities for individuals of all ages and abilities to engage in healthy physical activity.