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A summer of discovery

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Amid a global pandemic and race-related protests across the United States and beyond, it’s apt that many of the suggestions for Bellingham Public Library’s and Whatcom County Library System’s annual summer reading program don’t necessarily fall under the frothy “beach reads” aggregation.

The bingo cards the libraries utilize to engage people of all ages to find new reading material instead point to topics designed to get participants to think outside of the box. This is especially true in the adult category, where subjects such as “state of the world,” “climate reality,” “refugee memoir,” “matters of great importance” and “women’s suffrage” share square space with less-incendiary subject matter like “hot summer, chilly read,” “laugh out loud” and “magical realism.”

For young readers, the “Imagine Your Story” theme the two library systems have teamed up on for the summer of 2020 are also focused on furthering bingo players’ capacity for discovery. Suggestions to read outside or to someone else, find out more about historic heroines, suss out an author who’s new to them, or read a folktale are among the choices for kids, but organizers note the categories on all of the cards—you can download and print separate ones for for early years, kids, teens and adults in English, Spanish, Russian, or Punjabi—are simply ideas, and bingo players are welcome to decide what and how much they want to accomplish.

As people read or listen to a book, they should keep track of their progress on the cards. Every child and teen who sets and meets a personal reading goal will receive a book to keep, and adults can get in on the fun by entering drawings to win reading-related prizes.

Unlike in past years, the summer reading program won’t be bracketed by in-person events. Instead, library staff have created a number of engaging online activities for children and teens in the form of at-home scavenger hunts, art-related tween Zoom meetings, writing clubs and more.

By the time the summer program wraps up at the tail end of September, it’s possible city and county libraries will have opened their doors to the public. In fact, with Whatcom County entering Phase 2 of Governor Jay Inslee’s approach to reopening the state, early this week the Bellingham Public Library and WCLS branches in Point Roberts, Blaine, Lummi Island, Sumas, Everson, Deming, North Fork, Lynden, Sudden Valley, and Ferndale began accepting returned materials during limited hours (remote book return locales remain closed, as do the buildings themselves).

Starting Mon., June 15, holds from Barkley, Fairhaven, and Central libraries can also be picked up curbside at the downtown Bellingham locale. Returned materials will be quarantined for three days before being checked in, so by the time your books, movies, CDs or other requests arrive, you’ll be good to go.

While WCLS’s plan for curbside service will take a little longer to put into action, staff have returned to their designated work locations while following health and safety recommendations including screening, physical distancing and wearing face masks. As soon as they get caught up, the plan is to start scheduling pickups outside the respective libraries.

Since WCLS staff will be managing the return of 111,630 books and other library materials and distributing 3,886 items patrons currently have on hold as they enter into Phase 2, sit tight and consider getting a head start on your summer of discovery.

“We know you’re eager to receive new library materials, and we’re excited to get them to you!” community relations manager Mary Vermillion says. “We’ve developed procedures to safely and efficiently handle materials. When the time comes, we will announce these steps on our website, on social media, and in email messages to patrons. Thanks for your patience as we begin our controlled processes.”

For more details about the summer reading program and COVID-19 updates, go to http://www.wcls.org or http://www.bellinghampubliclibrary.org

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