Stanislaus County Library staff have always offered reading recommendations and help finding materials of interest for customers, but COVID-19 has created a need to find creative new ways to highlight library materials.

Customers can now request personalized reading recommendations by completing a form on the library website. After answering a few questions about preferences, interests, and books and authors they’ve enjoyed, the form is sent to librarians for suggestions. Each request is forwarded to librarians with expertise in the areas requested by the customer.

“In recent months, fewer customers are asking for recommendations, but we still want to make people aware of the great collection the library offers,” said Reference Librarian Vicki Salinas, who created the Reading Recommendations Form. “Because people are unable to browse right now, this is also a way to highlight new materials.”

Customers can indicate whether they’re looking for print or digital materials, and if desired, librarians will even place the selected items on hold, for pick-up at the customer’s preferred library branch.

For many years, Stanislaus County Libraries have offered Traveling Tales, a themed story time kit in a box, originally designed for pre-schools and daycare centers. The kits are available to all customers, but the large box can be cumbersome. This gave Children’s Librarian Christin Hutsell the idea to create Read to Me! kits, a smaller, easier to carry version of Traveling Tales designed for parents and families.

“We wanted to make Traveling Tales more accessible to parents,” said Hutsell. “The Read to Me! program is designed for parents, rather than teachers, so we reduced the number of books and changed the packaging to reflect the needs of someone who is pushing a stroller or holding a little one’s hand.”

Read to Me! kits come in a clear, zippered bag with a shoulder-strap so they can be carried hands-free. The themed kits include four to six books, one music CD, one puppet, early literacy information, and a fingerplay booklet, everything parents need to create a special story time experience at home.

Library books and materials, like the Read to Me! kits, are currently available for no-contact pick-up at Stanislaus County Library locations. Reserve kits by searching “read to me” in the library catalog, using the “series” filter. The reading recommendations form and access to the library catalog are available at www.stanislauslibrary.org.

For more information, call the Newman branch library at 862-2010.