WEST WARWICK — Since the outbreak of the new coronavirus disease was declared a pandemic two weeks ago, organizations nationwide have had to adapt in the interest of stemming its spread. At the West Warwick Public Library, librarians have turned to the web to ensure patrons are still able to access the services they need from the safety of their own homes.
Rashaa Al-Sasah, head of teen services at the West Warwick Public Library, said local librarians are striving to “find as many ways as possible to bring the library” to residents.
“We’re really looking to support everybody in as many ways as possible,” she said Monday.
At 1 p.m. today, Al-Sasah will lead her first “virtual craft-a-long time,” inviting young homebound viewers to create owls out of toilet paper rolls. It will be live-streamed on the event page on the library’s Facebook, and the video will remain posted afterward for those unable to tune in on time.
“It’s mostly just about thinking outside the box and figuring out ways to bring the services that we provide to people in their homes,” said Al-Sasah, who added that she plans to continue hosting virtual events each week until the library reopens. “It’s kind of a new and exciting area for us, as librarians, to think about using technology in this way.”
She’ll also host a do-it-yourself sugar scrub craft event for teens on Thursday at 3 p.m., and at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday will read aloud the first five chapters of “The Wicked Tree” by Kristin Thorsness.
The craft events will for the most part require supplies that can be found around the house, Al-Sasah said. The sugar scrub, for example, only requires three commonly-used ingredients.
In offering events virtually, Al-Sasah said she hopes to help lessen the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on students’ social-emotional learning.
“There’s a lot of fear that’s going around,” she added. “Any way that we can give some normalcy to people’s lives, we’re always happy to support people in that way.”
The West Warwick Public Library actually began last week to transfer some of its programming to an online platform.
Amber Bliss, a reference librarian, has been running regular role-playing games, like Dungeons & Dragons, from the library for more than a year.
“I didn’t want those to be interrupted, especially because they exist on a platform that’s somewhat easily migratable to a virtual format,” Bliss said.
There are currently four Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, each with between five and seven players, taking place biweekly at the library. Those campaigns were moved last week to the web using the video conference app Zoom and Roll20, a free virtual tabletop.
Each of the ongoing games migrated successfully, Bliss said, and was picked up without interruption. Every current player was able to make the transition seamlessly to the online versions, as well.
“The patrons really love it,” she said. “They love that they’re not giving up one of the primary social hours in their busy adult lives.”
Having figured out the remote platforms, Bliss said she’d welcome anyone interested in starting an online role playing game to absorb some of their newfound spare time to reach out to her.
“For people who maybe played in their youth or in college and haven’t been able to play since because they have families and work obligations, now is a great time to get your D&D fix,” she said.
And for those who can’t commit to playing regularly, she added, there will also be opportunities to participate in one-shot games.
“So you can just join up to play three hours of Dungeons & Dragons in a mini adventure,” Bliss said, adding that the next of those one-time events is scheduled to take place this Thursday at 3 p.m.
The library’s English as a Second Language (ESL) classes will be moved to an online platform, too, as will the weekly senior tech club, which Bliss said serves also as a fun social event.
A “virtual senior social hour” will be held using Zoom at 10 a.m. on Thursday.
Bliss said she’s “more than happy” to create virtual spaces for residents to get together. Despite the library being closed, she added, local librarians are still on hand to help residents in whatever way they can.
“Though everybody’s very isolated right now, no one is actually going to be alone,” Bliss said. “If you’re looking for help with anything, or just for a chance to socialize, the library and the communities that you’ve already built within the library are still here for you.”
Resource guides on topics like COVID-19, distance learning and mental health have been posted to the West Warwick Public Library’s website, www.wwpl.org, as well as to its Facebook page. The library has also partnered with Tumblebooks to offer free ebooks to people of all ages, regardless of whether they’re library card holders.
Library staff can be reached via their individual email addresses, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the library’s Facebook page.