From Harry Potter to Civil Law, Seattle-area Libraries Online Programs Offer Connection During Coronavirus



Editor’s Note: This is an article in a periodical series called Stepping Up, highlighting times of compassion, duty, and community in uncertain times. A story to tell? Email it to [email protected] with the subject “Steppping Up”.


Whether you’re a kid in need of a Harry Potter fix or an adult wanting to learn more about civil lawsuits, the Seattle area libraries are here for you.

Libraries are closed, but their programs have continued online, and there is a class or group for just about everyone. Getting involved is one way to stay connected during this time of isolation caused by the coronavirus.

For children who no longer go to school to stay connected, programs like Harry Potter & the Social Distancing Book Group run by the King County Library System can help fight feelings of isolation.

“We see it as more than just a way to promote reading and social literacy, and it is extremely important to us that tweens and teens who may be struggling with isolation hear about it,” he said. said KCLS librarian Ellen Herring, who, along with Devon Abejo, is the main organizer of the program. “(We) sincerely believe that this program can help young people make connections that could be lifesavers during this difficult time.”

Learn more about the COVID-19 pandemic

Abejo, an adolescent services librarian, got the idea when JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, announced the free electronic availability of the first book. Herring was running a series of Harry Potter programs at the Covington and Black Diamond Libraries when the libraries were closed. She joined, along with a few other librarians.

The reading group is in the middle of a nine-week run, with online gatherings every Monday for ages 9 and up. There are also Harry Potter reading challenges and Harry Potter Friday events that are linked to the book club.

“We saw so much excitement,” Herring said. “Not only do they talk to us and their peers at the meeting itself, there’s a chat room happening next door, and they really get to talk to each other and almost play. They will do a live role-playing game where they will face their favorite character. You can tell it’s been a while since they’ve had the chance to talk to anyone other than their siblings and older people.

The Schulte family moved to the Colorado area in January. For Lucia Schulte, a 9-year-old in third grade, the Harry Potter Book Club has helped her adjust to the new normal during the coronavirus. She has read the last four Harry Potter books since schools closed and participates regularly in book club events.

“She went from knowing her friends to school zero,” said Sarah Schulte, Lucia’s mother. “It was a great opportunity for her to talk to children her age. … Keeping her engaged and with her peers is something I think she needs. She’s the one who reminds me that it’s 3pm Monday (when the book club starts). She’s in there with her notebooks and books, and that’s important to her. It has been such a treat and they do a great job of keeping all these kids engaged and happy for 45 minutes.

Lucia Schulte said: “It’s fun to be with other kids, instead of being stuck with my brothers (5 and 3.”)

Joining the club late is not a problem, in the experience of 12-year-old Elizabeth Hanson (the journalist’s daughter). She joined the club for the week 4 discussion of chapters 5 and 6 of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”.

“It was a great opportunity to speak with people who know and understand Harry Potter – because my parents don’t,” said Elizabeth, who is looking forward to the online “Sorting Hat” event where she will be sorted. in a Hogwarts house. and create a thematic bookmark. “I felt a connection with the rest of the world, just talking to other people who weren’t my family.

That’s a typical student reaction, Herring said. The Monday reading group averaged around 25 to 35 children, mostly in the 9 to 13 age group. Herring said the reading group will continue after the nine-week run ends, with the next session already scheduled.

There are many other offerings through KCLS and the Seattle Public Library that cater to a diverse audience.

For example, SPL offers art classes for people over 50, English help and practice, and technology certification exams.

Some of the offerings through KCLS include genealogy help, ‘Sip and Savor’ cocktail book clubs, children’s book sessions with cats and dogs, and small business tips on navigating COVID-19.

On the other side of the Harry Potter Book Club demographic spectrum are the virtual civil legal trial courses that the King County Law Library is hosting in partnership with the Seattle Public Library. The group of four courses is presented as follows: “Learn to navigate civil lawsuits without tears with a series of virtual legal courses to teach you the ins and outs of self-advocacy.” “

Online courses started with a cap of 20, but were so popular that the cap was extended to 5o, said Barbara Engstrom, executive director of the King County Law Library.

Classes started two years ago as in-person events in libraries. It started with a 90-minute introductory foundation course and then expanded to four with advanced courses on motions, pre-trial discovery, and evidence.

“Most of the people who come to the courts try to represent themselves in a lawsuit and are completely confused, which puts them on a trail where they can understand the rules of the court and how they work,” Engstrom said. “One of the reasons I started the classes was that they went to legal clinics and got help, and after doing what the legal entity at the clinic told them, they didn’t know where to go next. To fill in the gaps, it was, “Take this course and you’ll get the big picture. “”

Classes continue, despite the coronavirus.

“Once the word got out it was a lot more popular online,” Engstrom said.


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