Rayna Gingerich (bottom right) and performer Doug Rougeux (left of center) play with bubbles at the library’s summer reading program celebration.

Rayna Gingerich (bottom right) and performer Doug Rougeux (left of center) play with bubbles at the library’s summer reading program celebration.


Like most libraries throughout Tompkins County, the Newfield Public Library made the decision to move all of its programs to an online format for folks to take advantage of remotely early on during the COVID-19 outbreak this past spring.

Library Director Sue Chaffee said it only took two weeks for the library to switch to an online platform.

“We had been doing a weekly story time with young families, and we switched that over to Zoom,” Chaffee said. “We also extended our adult discussion group from monthly to weekly, and we did all of that over Zoom as well.”

The convenience of moving to an online format was certainly a plus, though it did not produce strong participation rates.

“We just get the sense that people are all Zoomed out,” Chaffee said. “They would’ve much rather come to the library.”

During the summer, as the reopening process was underway, the library established some hybrid-participation programs — programming with the option to participate in-person or virtually. The first one of those programs was an author visit from local writer and Deputy Town Historian Rosemary Rowland, who recently published a book on the history of women in Newfield.

“We did that with the help of the Methodist Church,” Chaffee said. “We used their outdoor pavilion where they hold church services, and we had I think 18 people there and then we had six people online to hear this author speak.”

Other hybrid programs include a collaboration with the library and the Sciencenter in Ithaca to hold events, such as a newspaper tower architecture challenge that took place late last month. There was also a scavenger hunt in August that encouraged community members to visit certain destinations throughout the village and town and learn about Newfield’s history.

“We wanted to encourage people to get out and we also wanted them to see some of the new things that were in the village, in the town,” Chaffee said. “For example, the school did a lot of work on their auditorium and there’s a whole section on the back of the building that if you don’t walk back there you wouldn’t have known it.”

“The way it worked was we took a photo of all these locations and we just cut out a small snippet of it, so it was really hard to tell what it was. So you had to walk around town and try to figure out where this photo came from.”

The library even hosted events and programs that were solely in-person. On multiple occasions throughout the summer, the library held an outdoor movie night at the Masonic Temple Pavilion with a screen donated by the lodge for families to view while being socially distant.

Aside from the virtual and in-person programming, the library has been involved in the effort to bring reliable internet access to Newfield. The library invested $1,200 into obtaining mobile hotspots that would be lent out to the community. Currently, the library has 10 hotspots for folks to checkout for two weeks at a time, and is applying for grant funding to purchase more in the future.

“We’re hitting the two-week mark from school starting, so we’re anticipating that a lot of the families that have them, what are they going to do when they have to turn them in,” Chaffee said. “Over the next couple of weeks, I think it’ll become more clear how many more we need to help with school this particular year.”

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