Written by Cara Chapman for the Press-Republican on July 26, 2020
PLATTSBURGH — U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) recently hosted a webinar with Library of Congress leadership on the resources available to North Country libraries, constituents and educators.
“The Library of Congress is a treasure chest with 61 million items that we digitized that cover history and civics and fun things as well,” Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden said.
“During this time, we are making a real effort to connect throughout the country and let everyone know about the online resources that the Library of Congress has.”
During COVID-19, rural libraries, school libraries and all types of institutions who serve young people have been challenged in terms of presenting information and activities, Hayden said. She added that parents are now becoming educators.
Programming the Library of Congress offers includes presenting authors, such as Captain Underpants creator Dav Pilkey, and the interactive program “Grab a Mic” featuring Jason Reynolds, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, which invites young people to tell their stories.
“During this time it’s important to hear the voices of young people, too, because they are definitely affected and need resources,” Hayden said.
Lifelong learners can enjoy Citizen DJ, in which participants use the library’s recordings to create their own, and the expanding Veterans History Project, an oral history project that records the remembrances and experiences of veterans.
The library additionally offers “Cooking up History” with such recipes as Rose Parks’ “featherlite pancakes,” and a special program that involves taking a nature walk with quotes from Walt Whitman’s poems.
Hayden added that digital collections — the library currently has one up on Rosa Parks and another on women’s suffrage — are available at loc.gov/exhibits, while all programming is available at loc.gov/engage.
Since teachers began working from home in March, the Library of Congress has tried to re-imagine the approaches it takes to serving educators, Director of Educational Outreach Lee Ann Potter said.
The library currently offers online office hours each Tuesday, with topics ranging from STEM resources to preservation and research, along with webinars on Wednesdays that allow teachers to receive continuing education credit.
Teachers can also access recordings of those office hours, webinars and past programming, Potter said.
Programming for teachers is available at loc.gov/teachers.
“In most cases, what we’re trying to do is help teachers not only understand the library and its collections and provide some ideas of approaches, but really help our teachers understand what the library has, and what strategies might be useful in getting their students to dig into those resources,” she continued.
“The whole focus of our program is really on inquiry and getting students to ask good questions of information and, of course, primary sources are a wonderful on-ramp to that.”
Potter added that the library has been thinking about what the fall and school will look like.
“We’ve been imagining some remote learning bundle approaches so that we can share with teachers the vast types of materials that are available from the library.”
Resources are also available for families who want to keep children engaged throughout the summer.
Hayden advised people to visit loc.gov/families for activity kits for making a book and introducing young people to Braille.
Additionally, the National Book Festival is in its 20th year. A virtual festival is set for the weekend of Sept. 25 and will feature pre-recorded interviews and facilitated conversations with authors such as Mo Willems, she said.
One webinar participant noted that the digital divide is a big challenge in the Adirondacks and asked Hayden and Potter for their thoughts on serving community members who do not have internet or transportation access.
Hayden mentioned how some libraries have gone out with mobile units and loan out hot spots in order to assist with connectivity.
Potter added that grants through the Library of Congress’ teaching with primary sources program could help deliver print versions of the library’s materials to students and teachers in areas where digital access is a challenge.
Hayden said she has been in conversations with library colleagues throughout the country, particularly in rural areas, who continue to be “the on-ramp to the virtual world” for many people and communities.
“It’s been very difficult to be physically closed in many areas because during times like this, that’s when libraries would be that place.”
She encouraged such institutions to utilize their partnerships with organizations like the Library of Congress.
“You don’t have to do it all on your own, … we are a partner with this and want to hear from libraries and educators about what other things they think we could do.”
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