Dickinson library's new virtual programming a hit for 2020

Library Director Rita Ennen presented an annual report of the Dickinson Area Public Library during this week’s Dickinson City Commission meeting. Ennen talks about how the library had to adjust to the ongoing afflictions of the coronavirus pandemic throughout 2020.

The Dickinson Area Public Library, pictured above, is proposing an expansion project. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

Despite being closed for a good portion during 2020, the Dickinson Area Public Library still found a way to accommodate its readers by incorporating new amenities such as curbside deliveries, virtual programming, mailing out library materials to patron homes and offering additional online materials.

Library Director Rita Ennen presented an annual report to the Dickinson City Commission Tuesday, June 15, during its regular scheduled meeting at City Hall. During 2020, the Dickinson Area Public Library received 38,836 visits to the main library. A total of 1,608 individuals attended in-person programs before the shutdown in March and the library saw 58,868 website visits last year.

When the coronavirus pandemic erupted, the Dickinson Area Public Library was forced to shut its doors to the public from March 16 to May 31, presenting a challenge for staff to invent new ways to provide services to the community.

“(With) library programming highlights, this is another one of those things where this year was really different,” Ennen said. “So at the beginning of the year through March, we had our usual programs. We ran 48 programs in that first two and half months… So March 16, we closed and we said, ‘Okay, we don’t know how long this is going to go one, but we expect it’s going to be a while.’ We started re-envisioning how we provide those same kinds of services, and what we did is a combination of some take and make things and virtual programming.”


Library Director Rita Ennen addresses the Dickinson City Commission with an annual report of the Dickinson Area Public Library Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

One month into the pandemic, the library already had story time sessions conducted via virtual programming on its Facebook page with four different times throughout the week, Ennen said. Virtual programming far exceeded any record of in-person attendance by 28,163 views in total.

“It was a lot of work and I’m very, very proud of my staff for the way they came together, put in the effort and learned to do some new things so we could continue to serve the public,” she noted.

The library opened for appointments-only from June 1-26. With its usual summer reading program, the library found a new way to still host that program through Beanstack — a virtual reading log service.

On June 29, 2020, the library reopened its doors, followed by the return of Slope County bookmobile routes in October. The library resumed its full regular hours at the main branch on Nov. 9, 2020.

In 2020, the Dickinson Area Public Library was open 3,388 hours, which included 2,501 hours at the main library, 168 hours in the bookmobile (80 stops and 4,122 miles) and 719 hours in Medora.

Library collections totaled 154,882, altogether. Print materials came to 81,819, electronic books were at 38,779, audio/CD materials came to 18,993, video/DVD materials were at 12,124 and other items totaled 2,619.

Though the coronavirus pandemic presented ongoing difficulties, library staff was able to mitigate those hurdles while continuing to be available to the public, Ennen said.


“Coming out of 2020, we really had the opportunity to learn some things and we’ve got things that we will take forward in our services forever,” she added.

Throughout the summer, the library will do some pop-ups during the First on First Dickinson Summer Nights Concert Series.

Library hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 701-456-7700 or visit .

Library Director Rita Ennen of the Dickinson Area Public Library sits at her desk while wearing a mask in January 2021. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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