Staff at Bellevue Public Library have put their “blood, sweat, and tears” into revamping its annual youth summer program to work virtually, Children’s Librarian Michelle Bullock said.

Within the week that the library closed due to the coronavirus, Bullock said staff committed to switching to a virtual program for this year and got to planning. She said she and Young Adult Librarian Crystal Anderson spent the last two and a half months planning and organizing the programs.

“We had to completely redo everything that we had previously planned,” Bullock said.

Bullock said everything will be done virtually this year through Beanstack, social media, Zoom and other online platforms. Getting to know how the sites work has been a challenge for Bullock, but she said the lost nights of sleep were worth it to encourage children to read throughout the summer.

“It’s important to keep the readers reading, but I think it’s even more important to interest or entice the reluctant readers,” Bullock said.

The program will run June 21 to Aug. 15. Normally, it starts the last week in May, but staff needed time to restructure everything.

For the first time, the Bellevue Public Library will use a digital reading log called Beanstack. Participants will be able to create an account, log their reading and earn badges. Bullock describes it as “very user friendly.”

Bullock said she’s been wanting to use this service for quite some time, so she’s excited for the public to try it. Since most children today spend a significant amount of time online and using technology, she said it just makes sense to switch to a digital method.

Bullock said the library signed a three-year contract, costing $2,000 a year, so this will be the preferred logging method going forward. Readers who prefer logging offline can do so if they contact the library.

Since children can’t come spin the weekly prize wheel like normal, staff decided to offer more grand prizes, including Nintendo Switch Lites, books, stuffed animals and more. Prize categories are divided up by age.

In addition to online logging, the library will hold virtual events and activities.

Program activity kits will be available for the first 20 children who sign up for them. Bullock said she’ll contact everyone receiving one to schedule a different pickup time. They’ll be placed by the backdoor wrapped in paper bags, sealed and labeled.

The programs will be limited to 99 participants since the maximum allowed on one Zoom call is 100, and the librarian needs one of those spots.

In person programs were previously limited to 20 people due to space. Because of this and the ease of online logging, Bullock said she expects more participation than in previous years.

The adult program will be postponed to the fall, Bullock said, and more information will be announced later.

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