Following a year of remote learning, the San Mateo County Libraries system announced it will be investing an additional nearly $900,000 toward a series of summer programs aimed at addressing pandemic-related learning loss.

“We understand the gravity of pandemic impacts and just how powerful and effective youth enrichment experiences are,” Reuben Holober, Millbrae councilmember and chair of the Library JPA Governing Board, said in a press release. “Now is the time for our libraries to take action to help support our youth, and we were thrilled to approve new summer initiatives to get kids ready for the next school year.”

During a remote meeting on May 17, the library’s Joint Power Authority Governing Board made up of 12 Peninsula cities voted unanimously to authorize the funds. The allocation is in addition to the nearly $1.2 million of Measure K funding already spent on summer programming and funds from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.

With the additional support for “positive whole child outcomes and learning gains,” the library system will expand its existing Big Lift Inspiring Summers program that focuses on buffering learning loss during school breaks and boosting educational experiences of underserved children.

In partnership with seven school districts, library leadership hopes to serve up to 1,100 students in the program this summer, up from the 605 youth participants of last year’s in-person summer program, Carine Risley, deputy director of Library Services, said in an email.

She noted many adjustments will be made to programming to accommodate for the pandemic’s effect on student learning including an increased focus on phonics and math for participating kindergartners. Programs will also be extended by a week, offering students five weeks of interactive activities.

“The extra time supports the whole child — not just academic achievement but ample opportunity to support social emotional development and create environments that are safe, caring and foster creativity,” Risley said.

Beyond the Big Lift Inspiring Summers program, two additional free learning opportunities will be offered through San Mateo County Libraries, Library Explorers and Families CREATE.

From June through July, a majority of county library locations will offer Library Explorers, an in-person enrichment camp from Monday to Wednesday. The camp focuses on developing literacy, math and socioemotional skills ahead of the new school year.

The Families CREATE program will offer self-paced and guided, live, interactive virtual experiences to students in first to fifth grade. Roughly 1,500 STEAM kits will be distributed at San Mateo County Libraries in English and Spanish, offering activities focused on science, technology, engineering, art and math.

“I am thrilled that the library is able to offer these enhancements to ensure that every child in San Mateo County is equitably supported to grow and thrive this summer,” Carole Groom, a San Mateo County supervisor and Big Lift leader, said in a press release.

Funding will also be used to subsidize program admissions for high need youth and to provide free books, library cards and hands-on learning material to children enrolled in programming from various city Parks and Recreation departments.

Reflecting on the past year, Holober raised the importance of providing support to children forced out of the classroom and away from peers during the pandemic. He noted many children were already at a learning disadvantage before the pandemic struck the region, a longtime area of focus for programs like those being hosted by the county library system.

San Mateo County Libraries have also fared well during the pandemic, Holober said. The system largely relies on property tax revenue which has performed well over the year despite the economic downturn and closing physical locations due to safety precautions has saved the system on staffing.

“I hope that this isn’t a one-time increase,” Holober, who highlighted his own childhood memories of participating in library programming in Millbrae, said. “[All JPA board members] know that the library plays an important role in addressing some of the educational challenges in this county and there really is no better way to invest.”

As the county reopens, San Mateo County Libraries have also expanded operations, requiring open staff positions to soon be filled, he said. San Mateo County Libraries is also accepting applications for Big Lift Inspiring Summers learning facilitator intern positions.

“The moment is now, and San Mateo County Libraries are investing in youth learning gains across the county,” Library Director Anne-Marie Despain said in a press release. “Through these initiatives, we hope to impact the lives of thousands of youths this summer.”

If interested in enrolling in summer programming or participating in internship opportunities visit for more information.

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