Highland Community Library in Johnstown was one of 47 statewide grantees for Pop-Up Grants for Cultural Producers. Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) created the program to provide rapid relief to cultural organizations impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The funds supported arts organizations, museums, historical societies, and libraries as they began to shift their events and activities to online platforms.
Every year Highland Community Library’s Summer Learning Program draws local families from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds into the library to participate in engaging events and activities. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 safety concerns, this was not possible in 2020. But with grant funding from PHC, they built a new online platform for their patrons using Beanstack, a service that connects libraries to their communities for large-scale literacy and learning programs.
With Beanstack, the library created a virtual summer program for youth that was fun, interactive, and educational. Designed around the humanities theme Imagine Your Story, it included challenges where patrons earned points by completing activities like reading a book or sharing about their community’s story. Accumulated points could be redeemed to receive a free t-shirt and enter a raffle for a new Kindle Fire. The program focused on finding ways for residents to connect with each other during the pandemic through storytelling.
“Participants told us they were excited that the programs encouraged whole-family participation, and parents were especially happy to have interactive activities to do with their children over the summer,” said Ashlee Kiel, Library Director. “The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and moving forward we intend to incorporate an independent online component in our summer program every year.”
At a time of social distancing, dynamic and engaging virtual programming and events by cultural organizations like Highland Community Library bring Pennsylvanians together to celebrate heritage and identity, build community and joy, create new virtual platforms, leverage assets like nature and place, and document our human stories.
Learn more about Highland Community Library at: cclsys.org/highland/
The Pop-Up Grants for Cultural Producers program is made possible by support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, individual donors to PHC, and an anonymous donor who offered additional funds for Philadelphia-based projects serving artists and small arts organizations.