NORFOLK, VA – The Friends of the Norfolk Public Library (FNPL) have always been strong advocates for Norfolk Public Library (NPL). Recently, sensing a greater need to help those in the community impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, this dedicated group has really stepped it up by providing $25,000 for the Library’s annual Summer Reading Program (SRP) and distributing 700 free books to children who participated in the summer food program.
Jean Swartz, President of the FNPL said, “We know people are struggling and we want to do our part to help them. Hundreds of new books were handed out at the libraries this summer with hopes of giving the children a way to keep their minds engaged, but we also saw it as a way to bring excitement and a ray of sunshine to each child’s day.”
Each summer, NPL offers an array of special events at its neighborhood libraries, all made possible with support from the FNPL. Because in-person events were cancelled this year, a portion of the $25,000 donation was redirected to virtual programming. From June 27 to August 29, NPL hosted 52 programs online as part of SRP. A mix of new programs and familiar favorites were offered that received 7,730 views from the community right from the comfort of home. Virtual events ranged from magic shows and author visits, to ballet classes and concerts. Additionally, the community read more than 202,000 minutes for SRP.
In July, three library locations opened for Grab-n-Go services: Jordan-Newby Anchor Branch Library, Pretlow Anchor Branch and Slover Library. These libraries also offered Grab & Go Meals; a summer food program for children hosted in partnership with Norfolk Public Schools. Another portion of the FNPL donation was used to purchase 700 new books. Every child who picked up a Grab & Go meal this summer walked away with a new book in hand courtesy of the Friends.
The introduction of virtual programs required many in the community and at NPL to pivot, learn and adapt to new technologies, but the virtual programs were well received by the community, including performers and NPL staff. Some performers hurt by business closures expressed gratitude for being given an opportunity to still present SRP programs virtually.
The book giveaway at Grab & Go Meals was also greatly appreciated by NPL staff, parents, and children alike. The summer food program has been offered at NPL for several years now, and, is essential at a time when many families suffer from food insecurity. Roughly 1,800 meals were served over seven weeks at the three libraries. The FNPL stated that giving away free books at Grab & Go Meals was a way to incentivize children to read and boost their spirits. Pretlow Anchor Branch staff stated that both children and parents were appreciative of the free meals and some came regularly.