By Jordan Gerard

Editor, The Caledonia Argus

The Caledonia Public Library remains open with selected services throughout the pandemic, but also returning to the local reading scene are the Little Free Libraries scattered throughout town. 

The five free book exchanges are once again stocked with books and waiting for eager readers, after the library closed the Little Free Libraries in March at the start of the pandemic. 

Friends of the Library said they chose to practice “extreme caution” during the first couple of months of the pandemic as they, and the rest of the country, waited for guidance. Finally, on Sept. 16, the little libraries were open again, since Caledonia was not a hotspot for COVID-19 and research from the Center for Disease and Control (CDC) said the virus does not spread easily from touching surfaces, the group told the Argus

It is recommended to practice sanitizing and hand washing after touching any surfaces or after accessing the libraries. 

Caledonia has five Little Free Libraries, located on Pine Street near the gazebo, Grove Street in front of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, at the historical building on the fairgrounds, Main Street near the stop light and in Eitzen, near the fire station. 

The library has the responsibility of filling it and maintaining the books and the structure of the little free libraries. 

In addition to the libraries, Caledonia Public Library has provided several options to keep kids and adults entertained, educated, and stocked full of resources. The virtual events have been a “huge hit” for county residents and stretched as far as St. Paul and the Chicago area, they said. 

Locally, residents in assisted living, daycares and individual families have been able to participate in nearly 79 events from April to September. Between live events on Facebook, using the Zoom video conferencing app and recorded programs, the library had a total attendance of 7,500 children and adults. 

The events varied from interactive virtual story times, doodling and beyond, painting with oil pastels, summer reading packets, mystery art bags, book clubs and four different SELCO programs. 

Library director Stephanie Eggert said that the programs exceeded her expectations and she is excited to keep bringing these amazing events to the Caledonia community. 

“Seeing the excitement on the children’s face on video and seeing the artistic projects they have done warms your heart. It felt amazing to be able to bring joy to so many while everything around us was shutting down and changing how we lived every day,” she said. “A little bit of happiness in a world that is stressed is so important. Even as communities are starting to open back up, we see our virtual activates as something we would like to continue to provide to the community.”  

Current events at the library are the surprise art program for youth, playful postcards (adults) and Yoga for You from Mainspring. December’s programming looks to be exciting as well, as it includes story times, community quilt-make and raffle, nutcracker make and take, relax and doodle and shrink art. More information will be available soon on those events. 

The Friends of the Library group noted funds from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and poeple of Minnesota for Library Legacy activities made the events possible. 

The library also partnered with Melissa Wray of local community organization Mainspring and with Jamie Schwaba of the Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts. 

The library is still open to the public to check out books, public computers are available, books can be requested from other libraries and wifi is accessible. Additionally, Chromebooks can be checked out for two day intervals during COVID. Curbside and home drop-offs are also available. Hours are Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

The Friends of the Library said they want to make sure all of their patrons’ needs are met and provide a level of comfortability for all patrons. A limit of 10 patrons is allowed and the library will continue to follow guidelines. Books are quarantined for three days prior to being placed back on the shelf. Electronics, movie cases and plastic audio cases are cleaned and disinfected. Masks are required to enter the library, but medical reasons for not wearing one are accepted and those patrons should inform the librarian at the front desk. 

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