Expanded Library Resources Offer Help During Crisis

Expanded Library Resources Offer Help During Crisis

This National Library Week it’s important to reflect on what librarians have been doing around the country to provide new and expanded assistance to their communities during the COVID-19 crisis. From expanding digital resources and creating remote learning tools to relaxing criteria for gaining access, libraries in every state have been creating tools to help their neighbors find books, wireless internet, jobs, and more. Read about some of these areas of expansion below and don’t forget to check how your local library can help you right now.

The Numbers
American Library Association ran a quick survey from March 24 – April 1st of this year to see how libraries were coping with the COVID-19 crisis. Response was astonishingly positive, and in the weeks since then, it’s obvious that libraries have only increased their efforts to provide assistance in their communities. Highlights from the survey:

While most libraries (98%) reported building closures to some extent, a substantial majority of respondents reported that, in response to COVID-19, they have continued, expanded, or added services such as:

  • online renewal policies (76%)
  • online services like e-books and streaming media (74%)
  • virtual programming (61%)

Library staff are also taking other innovative steps to adapt and respond to community needs, including:

    • Providing non-COVID-19 online resources (activities to do at home, unemployment resources, etc.): 21%
    • Expanding access to services (e-cards, deaf/blind/disabled expanded options, fine forgiveness, upping checkout limits, providing online assistance, setting up a helpline, etc.) : 21%
    • Materials distribution (free supplies, kits, bookmobile deliveries, mailing items): 17%
    • Providing resources related to COVID-19 (online and physically posted): 17%
    • Technology (laptop and hotspot checkout, expanding wifi, print/scan/copy/fax services): 13%
    • Using MakerSpace equipment to create medical supplies: 12%
    • Virtual exhibits/programs: 10%
    • Reallocation of staff/resources (staff to other government entities for support, allowing other entities to use meeting space, sending PPE to other depts.): 10%

No Library Card? No Problem
Many people may be wondering if they even have a valid library card for their local branch, library resources easily slip into a section of the mind for things they wished they had thought to get before everything closed. But libraries have been expanding access to their digital tools with regular, temporary, and digital library cards.

  • Check your local library’s website to see if they offer a way to get instant access from signing up on the web.
  • Call or email your local library and ask to get a library card — librarians want you to be able to use the cool stuff they’ve been putting together, and will help you get access.
  • Check the library systems for the large cities in your state — many have opened up access to everyone in the state. Or if you work or go to school in a different area than you live, don’t forget to check their library system too.

Get Local and National News You Need
With the evolving state of understanding around Coronavirus, people are running out of their monthly free articles for their favorite newspapers quickly. Don’t worry about whether or not you’ll be able to access news from sources you know and trust, many libraries have digital subscriptions to newspapers and databases their patrons can utilize for free.

  • First check your library’s website, many will have links directly to a local newspaper you can read right on your computer
  • PressReader – A common tool available through some libraries that offers access to over 7,000 newspapers and magazines in over 60 languages and from over 120 countries.
  • Flipster – Download the latest issues of over 50 of the top magazines from the top publishers.
  • If you can’t find the information you want, or are unsure how to access it, email your library and ask them directly (or call during normal business hours, many have people monitoring the phones). Librarians can tell you about specific databases that you may not know about, including ones for academic research.

Libraries Provide Crucial Internet Access

The high-water mark for library visits in Center surveys is 53% in 2012, in the aftermath of the recession when other research showed that visits to libraries for job searches were more prevalent than they are today.

2016 Pew Research Study breakdown by John B. Horrigan about library usage and engagement.

With the likely economic impact of this crisis, there is no doubt that many will utilize the internet access libraries provide if they are safely able to do so.

  • Most libraries are closed right now, but many left their public WiFi on. If you live in an area where you can safely drive to the library parking lot and not come in contact with others, you can access free internet if you need it. Some libraries are even working to expand their WiFi now, to help more people nearby, as well as allow people to access it with the most possible distance between them and other people.
  • Some libraries have a Library of Things, which offers loans for objects people can borrow for a limited period of time. These often include things like laptops, tablets, and even WiFi Hot Spots. Ask your reference librarian if there’s anything like that you can borrow, if not, they may be able to help you find a library with these tools.

Remote Learning for Students and Adults
Just a cursory glance at library websites in the last month has demonstrated an explosion of content and community activities all aimed at being used remotely. There are lesson plans, online tutors, story times, classes, printables, and more than can even be listed. Once again, make your library’s website your first stop — even if they just have a Google document of links to get you started, there is something for everyone to utilize for learning. Here’s a small smattering of current favorites:

    • Storytime streamed on Facebook live with librarians and/or authors
    • Homework help and free online tutoring
    • Art projects, lessons, and guidance
    • Learn a language with programs like Pronunciator
    • EBSCO LearningExpress — offers stuff for students and professionals for academic skill-building, standardized test prep, career certification test prep and more.
    • Learn a useful job skill with access to sites like Lynda.com

Read or listen to books, all ages available
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, many libraries have been working to expand their digital titles available, as well as the number of titles patrons can borrow. Check out these different tools for digital content, not every library has access to every one, but most have access to a couple different ones.

  • OverDrive/Libby — Two different apps from the same company. Overdrive is especially great on a computer for figuring out what ebooks and audiobooks to borrow, Libby is designed for reading and listening right on your mobile device.
  • Hoopla — Access to movies, comics, audio and e-books. This App also lets you watch, listen or read right in App, but for movies you can also connect it to your TV via HDMI or stream it with Apple TV or Chromecast.
  • Tumblebooks — Over 1000 free e-books for kids Kindergarten – 6th grade!
  • RB Digital — Top audiobooks to borrow
  • eSimply — New York Public Library’s very own platform for borrowing digital titles.