COVID Diaries Summer Programming Ideas and Resources

Integrating California State Library’s COVID Diaries Project Into Your Online and Distance-friendly Summer Programs


California COVID Diaries is a statewide community history project that encourages Californians of all ages to share their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic through creative expression. COVID Diaries can take many forms – an essay, a story or letter, a poem, a song, a photo or drawing, a painting, sculpture, a short film, a blog or social media post. The possibilities are limitless!

The Summer @ Your Library Program Committee has compiled programming ideas and resources gathered from library staff across California to assist libraries in using their summer reading and learning programs as creative outlets that provide a platform and repository for their community member’s experiences during this unique moment in time.

Beanstack, BookPoints and READsquared are making COVID Diaries badges available. These badges can be used to promote and encourage participation in creating and submitting diary entries to your own library archive/programs and/or to the California State Library’s COVID Diaries archive.

We encourage California’s libraries to:

  • offer programming that encourages community members to create a personal record of their quarantine experiences,
  • encourage community members to submit and share their written or artistic expressions to the State Library website’s COVID Diaries portal:
  • encourage community members to submit and share their written or visual expressions to your library’s own COVID archive, library website, social media sites, or other local submission sites.

COVID Diaries Summer Programming Ideas and Resources:

An Open Call

Encourage community members of all ages – families, teens, and adults – to contribute materials that document the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on their life, their changing routines, changes in their homes and in their communities.

The call can be for any and all of the following, and more!

  • Photographs
  • Journal entries and 6 word memoirs
  • Letters and emails, and other correspondence
  • Drawings, paintings and other artistic creations
  • Poetry and haiku
  • Short videos or recordings

Calls for Submissions can be directed to your own library archive if you decide to maintain one, or can be directed to the California State Library’s archive here:

Resources: Some examples of how libraries, large and small, are approaching calls for community stories:

LA County Library (CA) Safer at Home: Stories and Art
California Historical Society (CA) Tell Your Story – California during the time of COVID-19
Los Angeles Public Library (CA) Safer at Home Archive
San Francisco Public Library’s COVID-19 Community Time Capsule
Swampscott Public Library (MA) Life in Quarantine

Six Word Memoir

A six word memoir is a creative way to bring big experiences and ideas down to their essence. Ask community members to think about their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, and write their story in six words (no more, no less). Encourage them to experiment and explore until they have the essence of what they want to share in six words. Have submissions posted to your library’s website, Facebook page, etc.

This activity is appropriate for: Teens and Adults

Resources for implementation:
Six word memoir writing tool developed by CLLS: Six word memoir worksheet (Please feel free to customize this tool as you like.)

Play at Home 

The Play At Home project has commissioned a series of short plays for this moment of unprecedented isolation with the purpose of inspiring connection. Encourage patrons to download a play, to read the play, and if they’d like, to share it! Offer community members a chance to post performances on the Library’s social media page and Play At Home project social media page.

Another option is to invite community members to write their own short plays that capture this moment in time and to perform and share them. Setting a time limit of up to 1, 2 or 3 minutes, for example, may encourage greater participation.

This activity is appropriate for: Teens, Adults and Families

Resources for implementation:

A Haiku for the Times    

With the arrival of COVID-19 we have entered into a strange new normal. Invite community members to write a haiku to capture a moment in time during their COVID-19 experience. Challenge them to sum up a sheltering-in-place experience in just 17 syllables.

Haiku are non-rhyming poems that tend to focus on a brief moment in time; a use of colorful or evocative images; and often contain a sense of sudden enlightenment. Traditionally they are 3 lines in length. The first line is 5 syllables, the second is 7 syllables, and the last line is 5 syllables. You can let patrons know that the 5-7-5 syllable rule is a requisite for submission or something to aspire to! Invite patrons to submit their haikus to the library via email, Facebook page, Instagram account, etc.

Resources for implementation :

Poetry Power’s How to Write a Haiku Poem
Pima County Library’s Will You Write Haiku With Us?
Huntington Beach Public Library’s Quarantine Haiku Project

This activity is appropriate for: All ages

Show Us Your View     

Create a digital collection of images that reflect people’s lives during the pandemic – both literal and metaphorical. Invite patrons to submit a photo or picture of how they see the world during this time.

For promoting your program: “We have all been seeing the world a little differently during these strange times. Submit a photo or picture of how you see the world these days. This could be a view of your backyard, your neighborhood, photos of street art or the signage of the pandemic, a drawing of your emotions – use your imagination!”

This activity is appropriate for: All ages

Journals & Journeys: A Program Model From Mono County Library

Shortly after the state stay-at-home order was in place, Mono County Library created a Facebook Group entitled Mono County Journals & Journeys to house journal prompts. A new journaling prompt is posted (M-F at 6pm) which may or may not relate directly to the realities of COVID-19. The group is open. Keeping posts off of the main page helps ensure that participants feel comfortable sharing excerpts, doodles, thoughts, etc.

For promoting your program: “More time at home means we have time for activities that are often neglected in the hustle bustle of our fast pace lives — like writing the old fashioned way, with a journal and pen! Mono County Libraries invites you to join us as we start to write about our world, guided by prompts from librarians across the county.”

This activity is appropriate for: All Ages

Make Your Own COVID Diary with a Free Journaling Kit: A Program Model From Pasadena Public Library

Pasadena Public Library will distribute kits with a journal, pencils and stickers, along with writing prompts to get patrons writing!

The library uses a Bingo program as its summer reading activity tracker. One square will read: “Make a COVID-19 Diary–and submit your entries to the California State Library’s Covid Diaries Project!” We’ll be including in our newsletter: “Did you know research has shown journaling to be good for your brain, improving memory and cognitive processing? During the 2nd week of July, patrons of all ages are invited to start their own journals, with a free journaling kit which will include a book, pencils, stickers and writing ideas (while supplies last).

For promoting your program: “The California State Library is putting together a collection of people’s thoughts, feelings and experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’d love for (Your Community name here) young and old to be included. Tell a story, write a diary entry, write a poem, draw a picture — express yourself! The sky’s the limit! Request your free journaling kit here [link to an email address or a fillable form].”

This activity is appropriate for: All ages

COVID Family Scrapbook

Encourage families to record their experiences with photos and journaling. Scrapbooking is a fun and creative way to express feelings and emotions. During this time families have been taking many photos of sheltering in place and sharing them on social media. Ask them to print them out and use craft supplies to create a living memory.

If you aren’t open to the public yet, that is okay. Some ideas include creating a scrapbooking kit that patrons can pick up curbside that includes paper, stickers and other embellishments, or, there are many free digital scrapbook kits that can be used to create digital layouts that can in turn be submitted to the library.

This activity is appropriate for: All ages

A Letter to the Future

Getting a surprise from the past can be an amazing thing. Using Future Me, community members can write a letter to their future selves and have it delivered from the past to their future selves.  It gives a chance to send your future self some words of inspiration or comfort; or make a prediction about your life, your family or the world. What will the future look like in one year, five years…more? Invite community members to write a letter to their future selves and to share it. And if they’d like to actually plan to receive it via email some time in the future, they can send it to themselves via the Future Me website

This activity is appropriate for: Teens, adults and families

Just For Teens

Short-Film Festival / TikTok Shorts   

Invite young filmmakers to show their talent, enthusiasm and creative spirit and submit a short film or TikTok short video about how life has changed since COVID-19. Invite teens to submit their videos using a specific hashtag, via Youtube, TikTok, or email. Screen submissions on the library’s website, facebook live account, Youtube channel, etc.

Resources for implementation:

Los Angeles Public Library’s Teens of LA Film Festival
Theatre Alberta’s Quarantine Stories Short Film Festival
Sidewalk Film Festival’s COVID-19 Teen Video Challenge

This activity is appropriate for: Teens

For Children and Families

Journaling Prompts for Kids

Make a Worry Monster (Art Therapy): 

During this time many children can develop anxiety and worry about the world. This is understandable and expected. Art Therapy can be used as a creative outlet, and turning those art pieces into submissions to COVID Diaries will help capture that raw feeling.

Some additional prompts for artwork and writing from children:

  • Create a New Creature…draw it and describe it.
  • Create a Superhero…draw it and describe it.
  • Draw and/or write things that make you happy.
  • Draw and/or write your favorite part of yesterday, or today, or last week.
  • Draw and/or write what you miss the most being in quarantine, and what you miss the least.


Writing resources from California Library Literacy Services

The following resources have been developed by California Library Literacy Services. Please feel free to customize these to best serve your library programming needs.

Impacts of Covid-19 – A guided writing tool regarding the experience of Covid-19
I Am Poem – a template for writing a self-reflective poem
Diamond Poem – A template for writing a seven line descriptive poem
Cinquain Poem – A template for writing a five line descriptive poem
COVID Diaries 6 word memoir worksheet

CA State Library’s Online and Remote Programming Database

For more COVID Diaries-themed programming ideas submitted by California library staff, visit the CA State Library’s Online and Remote Programming Resources from California Public Libraries. Filter your search using the “COVID Diaries” Program Type. And please consider contributing a program idea  to the database: 

Thank you to the California Summer @ Your Library COVID Diaries Team for these ideas:

Carissa Devine, Mono County Free Libraries; Janet Gastil, San Diego County Library; AnnMarie Kolakowski Pasadena Public Library; Nichole King, Santa Clara County Library District; Summer @ Your Library Program Committee