CANTON Summer is here and there is plenty to do around the area. The Stark Library system, including the Jackson Township branch, is offering a summer packed with special programming options for all ages.


The Annual Summer Challenge returns, along with a new option for checking items out of the library called Library to Go and summer food programs.


The Summer Challenge runs until Aug. 14 and the program is open to children and teens (up to grade 12). The Summer Challenge ("Imagine Your Story") has undergone some changes this year. First, the program name doesn't have the word "reading" in it. The idea is that kids aren’t one-size-fits-all, why should the Summer Challenge be?


This year, the program has been expanded to include activities like writing a letter, creating an art collage, learning about different countries and much more. The activities offer ways and encourages kids to find new interests and explore STEM-related activities, get involved in the community and grow their imagination and creative problem-solving skills.


Jen Walencik, community engagement specialist for the library, said summer programming is important to keep kids engaged and active.


"It’s important to keep kids engaged and active over the school break to avoid the dreaded summer slide," Walencik wrote in an email. "The annual Summer Challenge program keeps children’s reading skills sharp, improves their comprehension and memory skills and even results in gains over the summer. Last year, over 6,250 participants joined the Stark Library’s challenge and read a combined total of 158,395 days.


"Given this year’s unusual circumstances, our events and tracking will be virtual."


Kids can earn points towards cool prizes for each activity they complete or day they read. Prizes include rubber ducks, pop sockets, mood pencils and books. There are six grand prize gift baskets that include things such as gift cards to Mission BBQ and Books-a-Million, Canton Charge swag, candy and more. The library has also set a Community Goal to collectively earn one million points this summer. If reached, they will host a special social distancing activity for everyone.


There will be progress maps to track days read and activities completed available online, as well as Stark Library branches (in brochure boxes outside) and in public places around the community including:


• Books-a-Million at the Strip


• Weis Park (by the tennis courts)


• Stadium Park (near the Garden Center)


• Jackson Parks: North Park near the shelter kiosk


• Fry Park


• Cook's Lagoon


• Perry Sippo


• Quail Hollow


Stark Library to Go!


With almost everything available curbside these days such as dinner, groceries and even crafting supplies, library books are joining the list. Stark Library to Go is an easy and safe way to reserve and pick up materials at local branches including the new Jackson Township branch.


This is four-step process:


Step 1: Reserve items online or by phone. Be sure to choose the branch to pick up the items.


Step 2: Patrons will receive notification by email, text, or phone when materials are ready.


Step 3: Schedule a pickup appointment using the online service.


Step 4: Orders will be ready for pick up in a plastic bag for patron’s safety.


"In today’s world of remote workers and social distancing, we’ve really had to take a look at the way we serve our patrons. The needs of the community are changing rapidly," said Mary Ellen Icaza, CEO/Executive Director of Stark Library. "The Library to Go service will be the bridge from virtual services to our eventual reopening. We miss our patrons, but we want to be sure we are meeting their new needs safely and to the best of our abilities."


All Stark Library buildings have been closed to the public since March. With regard to safety, the Library is using a phased approach to reopening.


"We know people have been anxious to return the materials they have checked out." said Icaza. "Our buildings and book drops are still closed, but we are hosting special drop off times at each location. We will notify patrons via email and update social media with times and locations."


Following the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Stark Library will quarantine all materials for 72 hours after they are returned.


While buildings have been closed to the public due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Stark Library continued to offer virtual services and 24/7 WiFi access to the community. E-material usage has been very strong during the closure. Since March, many formats have seen a 20 to 50 percent increase and more than 7,720 users earning a total of 849 Lynda.com career certificates in April 2020.


The Library will continue offering virtual programming, like story times and the Summer Challenge, in the coming months. Stop by StarkLibrary.org, visit the blog, or follow the library on social media for the latest news. For locations, hours or more information visit StarkLibrary.org or call 330.452.0665.


"From virtual programs and tours to curbside service, every industry is finding a way to adapt. 2020 is the year of creative solutions," Walencik said. "We’re re-evaluating how we serve the community with services like the Library to Go and how to engage our youth by offering virtual programs for the Summer Challenge. By expanding the program beyond reading, we hope to encourage the doers, the thinkers, and the community-minded children with hands on activities in addition to reading. We’re asking them to share their projects with us in a Summer Challenge FB group. We can’t wait to see what they come up with."