SHELTON — The pandemic may have closed the city’s libraries but it hasn’t eased the workload for its personnel.

Hundreds of residents are using the curbside book pick-up system and the summer reading program is underway, headed by newly named Plumb Memorial Library children’s librarian Maura Gualtiere and Huntington library branch children’s librarian Jessica Prutting.

"We tried to make our summer reading program this year something that families could participate in without making it feel like work,” said Prutting.

“Distance learning was challenging for students and parents alike, and our hope was to offer a mix of reading-based and activity-based challenges — some that families could do together, some that encouraged them to try something new — that could be described as 'summer learning' as opposed to simply 'summer reading,’” added Prutting.

Half of the items on the summer reading checklist focus specifically on reading, but the other half ask students to get creative and take a photograph, or branch out and watch a documentary, or help their family with a household chore.

“We hoped the summer reading challenge would give kids an opportunity to learn many different things that they might not have tried in the past,” said Gualtiere.

Families can sign up for the summer reading program on the Shelton Library System website. Once registered, families can come to Plumb Memorial Library and get their summer reading bags at curbside pick-up between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Each bag has a bookmark, some small prizes and the summer reading challenge checklist. Bags are color coded for children ages 0-5, grades K-6, and grades 7-12. Each checklist has 20 activities for children to complete.

Once checklists are completed, participants can use a pre-stamped and pre-addressed envelope that was included in the summer reading bag to mail it back to the library. For every five activities completed, the participant gets an entry into a grand prize drawing, and if they complete the entire check list, they get a bonus entry.

Children can win either a $25, $50 or $100 gift card to Amazon if their name is drawn. Checklists should be mailed back by Aug. 7 at the latest for an Aug. 15 prize drawing, after which winners will be contacted, organizers said.

In putting the program together, Prutting said she and Gualtiere used “best practices from our colleagues around the state and the country as well as our own thoughts as to what would best serve the patrons of Shelton. Although it was a logistical challenge, having one another to bounce ideas off of and the support of our directors made it easier.”

Beside the summer reading program, Shelton Libraries Director Joan Stokes said library staffers are handing out as many as 85 bags during curbside pickup hours at Plumb Memorial Library. Curbside pickup is held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

“This idea has really caught on,” said Stokes. “Whenever things go back to normal, this may stay. The public has really taken to this.”

Stokes said the book drop remains open at Plumb Memorial Library. Late fees have been waived. No materials donations are allowed at this time.

Some 10,000 books have been checked out between the closure, but readers can also download materials through the library’s website, according to Stokes.

The library uses "Hoopla and Overdrive as our databases to download e-books, movies, audiobooks, tv and music for free with a Shelton card,” said Stokes. “They are accessed through our website."

Stokes said the library is ready whenever it gets word to reopen. She said that no computers or extra seating will be available to patrons. Plexiglass has been installed around all service desks, there is six feet between all tables, sanitation stations are available at numerous areas and all staff have masks and face shields.

Reference questions, book recommendation requests, card renewals, questions about Plumb or the Huntington Branch can be sent to SheltonLibraryQuestions@gmail.com. To use curbside pickup, email plumbcurbsidepickup@gmail.com or call 203-924-1580. To learn more about the summer reading program, visit https://sheltonlibrarysystem.org/summer-reading-2020/

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com