Haliburton County Public Library program and outreach co-ordinator Nancy Therrien is still hard at work reading to groups of local kids despite libraries being closed to the public due to COVID-19.

She donned a hairband with faux-antenna, prepared a couple of books about aliens and had a crafty balloon-rocket at the ready for her children’s storytime March 20. But the kids did not surround her as usual. Instead, she spoke to them through a screen as she recorded a video to post on Facebook.

“It’s important because I think by offering interactive, online activities, it will help maintain community spirit,” Therrien said. “The library can still be a hub; it’s just going to be a virtual hub for a little while.”

Programs and individuals across the County are working to adapt their services to online amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. With buildings closing and social distancing in effect, social media is becoming a bigger part of service delivery.

The library is rolling out more online programs. Besides storytime, it is also planning to stream things such as crafting and a sing-and-learn. Library manager Bessie Sullivan said the service is also expanding its eBook collection, with publishing companies offering more during the pandemic. She said there have been challenges working out the technology, but it is important to keep services going.

“We figured anything we could do to help entertain kids was a good thing, but also to keep them reading. We do have lots of online tools they’ll be able to access,” she said. “Our biggest role in all this is just going to be to provide as many resources as possible.”

She added the library is expanding its online service capability, adding things such as online library card renewals.

“Over the next little while, we’re just going to put as much in place as we can that people can access through our Facebook and website.”

The Haliburton Highlands Museum is also offering material on social media while it is closed, highlighting different parts of its collection and posting craft activities it had planned for March break.

“We’ve jumped in feet first,” director Kate Butler said. “We’re looking at exploring all the different ways we can connect with people. “It’s a very confusing time,” she added. “People are trying to make sense of what’s going on in the world. There’s lots in the news causing people stress and anxiety. We can help people step a little bit outside of that for a time.”

Individuals are also providing people some reprieve through streaming. Into the Blue Bakery owner Janine Papadopoulos has begun streaming during social distancing, reading stories and guiding people through baking bagels.

“I don’t normally have much time on my hands and I just thought, what could I offer?” she said. “It’s just a way to get engaged with the community … It’s a great way to reach out to people in a time when people are feeling penned-in.”

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