Sarasota County libraries find new ways to serve families

Sarasota County youth librarians adapt their storytime programs to online to stay in touch with kids.

Jose Cruz, a children’s librarian at Shannon Staub Library, broadcasts live storytimes on the Sarasota County Play Facebook page.

In a typical summer, all 10 Sarasota County Library branches would be bustling with weekly family storytime events. But this year, eager young visitors haven’t been playing with monkey puppets, reading to dogs or singing nursery rhymes in the youth sections. 

Instead, children’s librarians like Jose Cruz of the Shannon Staub branch in North Port are broadcasting live storytimes on the Sarasota County Play Facebook page. In one, “Mr. Jose” shared fairytales from the Youth Reading Garden, offered updates on digital library resources, and showed off his new mask for wearing inside the library. Comments like “we miss you” pop up frequently under these Facebook videos, which often get more than 1,000 views. Some parents share messages directly from their children while others express gratitude for the virtual entertainment while regular programming is on hold. 

From online events to new physical and digital resources, the Sarasota County Library system has made major adjustments in the months since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. While the branches are no longer shut down, patrons are encouraged to “grab and go” and all programs are currently virtual. 

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