Small communities are strong. They share resources, advocate for good ideas, and facilitate the growth of their regions. But what happens when these communities are met with global adversities?

Willamina is one example of a community that has come together to face the COVID-19 crisis head-on, by creating opportunities for remote learning and communication.

Sarah Frost, the Willamina Public Library director, and her leadership team have played an important part in several remote initiatives taking place in Willamina. They have created new ways for the library to interact with the community by developing resources through the school district as well as city hall. Sarah says that the library’s latest adjustments would not be possible without the help of her team, the extended community, and various technology resources.

Youth Services Coordinator Nichole Hillyer hosts a story time episode

On top of hosting weekly storytimes in the form of live Facebook videos as well as reimagining the library’s summer reading program with grab-and-go reading packets, Sarah and her team have also taken on a new YouTube channel that they are utilizing as a separate storytelling platform. Through a partnership she formed with educators from the Willamina School District, she launched a YouTube series called Books With Educators. Each episode features a new teacher reading a new book, and the series is updated frequently. “The remote policies have given us an opportunity to see outside the box.” Sarah explained, describing unique moments of collaboration where she helped teachers learn how to operate online classrooms and adjust to distance learning challenges. “I have worked with people I never would’ve known otherwise.” she said.

Additionally, to continue the interest surrounding the library’s available technologies, Sarah posted her first episode of VR Friday in early May — a new YouTube series dedicated to encouraging virtual reality and tech conversations within the community. Sarah says: “There’s value in letting people know we are still working, active, and thinking of the community.” Despite the difficulties associated with the widespread change, Sarah’s focus is centered around continuing to support her community and staff. “Engagement looks different,” she acknowledged. “The library is normally a social hub, so we are finding new ways to try and connect on that level.”

Volunteers paint the library walls in February

Reflecting on the widespread personal and professional impact of the pandemic, Sarah addressed the vast changes in her routine as the library director. She notes; “The gears have shifted from ‘technical to-dos’ to human connection.” While describing the difficulty of being away from regular library visitors and the community, she expressed that her deepest inspiration to continue remote operations comes from the lasting energy of the community. She reflected on the library renovation project that took place just before the shelter-in-place order was mandated, where volunteers excitedly and adamantly contributed to the large-scale project.

Sarah says: “So many people volunteered their time to engage with that project and I saw how much the library means to the community. When they come back, I want them to know it’s theirs.”

We at OnlineNW are proud to support and connect with the city of Willamina, especially during these uncertain times. To support Sarah and her team’s community initiatives, follow the library’s Facebook page, Instagram and YouTube.

Bevin Schrag Administrator

Bevin Schrag is a writer for Innovate Oregon. While working in social media and marketing at OnlineNW, she is currently studying the arts at Chemeketa Community College, to later become a media designer.