MILTON — Milton’s librarians have always done more than just check books in and out, but during the pandemic, they’ve stepped up to the plate to take on many more new roles.
The friendly faces you know are now cinematographers, film editors, craft assemblers, chefs, Zoom efficienados, curbside pick-up coordinators and more.
“We’re always trying to come up with ways for the community to connect with us without coming inside,” Interim Director Kathy Dulac said.
Except for a brief period late last summer and early last fall when it was open by appointment only, the Milton Public Library has been closed to the public for over year. In that time, much has changed, and the summer is looking bright.
Kathy Dulac back as Library Director
For the fifth time in her 26-year career, Kathy Dulac is the Milton Public Library’s Interim Director.
Dulac was named Acting Director in November 2020, after the departure of Former Director Susan Larson. Since January, Dulac has been the Interim Director, a position she will hold until the library’s staff and board of trustees find a new leader.
Director is a position Dulac is comfortable holding for the short term, but she prefers her usual title as Head of Youth Services, a role that captured her heart over 20 years ago.
“I ran a daycare for about nine years in Milton, and when that ended, I took a part-time position here at the library,” Dulac said. “My mother was a librarian, I love reading and I was an English major, so it seemed like the perfect fit. I’ve been going with it ever since.”
Even though she’s taken on more administrative duties over the last few months, Dulac has still found time to do her virtual storytimes, which are posted every Friday on the library’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.
Since the pandemic began, Dulac has filmed 46 virtual storytimes, which include books read aloud and a coordinating craft that can be done from home.
In the videos, Dulac is seen sitting alone in the brightly-colored children’s section, a space that hasn’t seen the children for which it’s named in over a year.
“The hardest part of all of this has been not being with the kids,” Dulac said. “I miss them so so much.”
Electronic resources and WiFi get a boost
Though for the last year curbside pick-up of library books has been extremely popular, Dulac said the library has also seen an increase in its circulation of e-books and electronic resources.
To meet the demand, the library partnered with Hoopla, a 24/7 collection of e-books, audiobooks, movies and music that can be accessed through an app. The service is free to all patrons of the Milton library.
In the coming weeks, the library’s WiFi will also get an upgrade. Signal strength will now be stronger in the parking lot, allowing community members who usually access the internet from inside the library to do so while it is closed to the public.
The upgrade comes courtesy of Project Connect, a free federal program that is working to eliminate “digital deserts.”
Planning for summer programs in underway
While the Milton Public Library is always a bustling hub for community and connection, it is even more so during the summer months.
Because of this, library staff are already starting to plan this year’s programming and are doing so in creative and versatile ways.
“We’re planning everything with the option for it to be conducted in-person, virtually or outside based on what we are allowed to do,” Dulac said. “We have to be flexible. That’s been my takeaway from all of this.”
Teen Space Coordinator Michelle Desranleau and MaryBeth Peterson, adult programming and marketing coordinator, are hoping the programming they lead can be held outside this summer.
Since the pandemic’s early days, Desranleau has conducted her Teen Space sessions virtually, showing participants how to craft, bake, write poetry and more. Peterson too has led her Adult Book Discussions over Zoom.
“Our staff has been wonderful,” Dulac said. “They’ve really picked up the slack and are willing to try different things.”
The nationwide theme for the 2021 summer reading program is Tails and Tales, which opens up a world of animal- and fairy tale-themed activities for the library to host.
Dulac hopes the library can kick off the summer program with a pet parade, during which people of all ages can march with their pets to Bombardier Park.
The library’s beloved gardening program will be returning soon too, after being cancelled last year. While participants will not be able to cook together due to COVID restrictions, they will still be able to gather outside on Monday mornings to take care of the community garden and learn from master gardeners.
Food grown in the garden this season will be donated to the Milton Family Community Center’s food shelf, Dulac said. Gardener’s Supply Company will donate materials.
In early May, Story Walks will resume in Bombardier Park. Stories will change twice a month, giving families a safe and educational outdoor activity to take part in.