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April 22, 2020

8 public library resources to take advantage of

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This year, National Library Week falls on the week of April 19-25. First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is a time to celebrate libraries across the country and their invaluable impact on our communities. While many of us primarily associate libraries with books, they are often a resource hub for the community, offering a number of different services in a localized place. 

With many schools closed and students practicing distance learning for the remainder of the school year, libraries are critical for families now more than ever. With a free library card, you can access numerous resources for kids, teens, and adults. 

Here are some great resources offered by many libraries across the country.

Library online

Due to COVID-19 and many states ordering residents to shelter-in-place, a majority of libraries are physically closed. However, there are still a plethora of virtual resources that libraries provide.

Audiobooks and e-books  

Through apps like Libby and Hooplayou can sign up for an account with your library card and access thousands of e-books, audiobooks, movies, and music. Search for “e-books” on your public library’s website to find out which service your library uses. Libby and Hoopla have limits to how many books you can check out at once or how many you can check out per month. However, if you happen to have a library card for multiple libraries, your limit will be increased. Many libraries also have access to Kanopy, a streaming service with over 30,000 movies, tv shows, and documentaries.

library resources

Virtual storytime 

Many libraries are doing online read-aloud sessions through their Facebook or YouTube pages, even featuring special guests. Check your local library’s website to see what online services they are offering at this time. It’s a great way to stay engaged and connected to your community during this time of isolation.

Other online resources 

Library websites are a great informational source. My local library has pages dedicated to government resources, legal and human rights, job search support, and even a page dedicated to family history and genealogy. 

Library in-person

Since we don’t know when shelter in place will end, now is a good time to learn about services your local library provides and how to access them in the future. These may vary based on your region and the size of your library. If you are unsure what programs and resources your local library offers, visit their website for more information.

Computers, internet, and printing 

One of the most valuable resources a library can offer is free access to computers and internet services. Most libraries offer free internet and computer usage with a library card. There is normally a time limit for using the computer, but it is an extremely useful resource for those who cannot afford a computer or internet. They also have printing services (some even have mobile printing) that cost only a few cents per page.

Adult literacy programs 

I serve with Reading Partners because literacy is very important to me. Although we serve children, adult literacy is extremely important as well. My local library offers free one-on-one tutoring sessions to adults who read below high school reading level.

library resources

High school diplomas online 

Some libraries partner with other organizations so cardholders can work toward their high school diploma online and free of cost. The San Francisco Public Library partners with Career Online High School to offer a fully accredited online high school diploma and career certification program and grants scholarships to eligible individuals.

Homework help 

Children and teens can receive homework help through their local library. Many libraries offer free or low-cost homework help after school on-site, through a community partner, or online.

Meeting rooms 

If you are in a public organization or group, you may be able to take advantage of library meeting rooms for your work gatherings. Some libraries rent meeting rooms for a fee, while others allow access to qualifying organizations for free. Regardless, meeting rooms are a great resource for organizations that do not have a permanent office or meeting place.

Other resources 

Always check your library’s event calendar. Most have events taking place every day, such as in-person read alouds and movie nights. Others offer classes and services such as legal services, financial management classes, citizenship classes, and veterans services.

This is not an exhaustive list of resources; looking at a library’s website or asking a librarian is always a great way to find out what services are available in your area. 

As we continue to social distance and shelter in place, it is an opportune time to reflect on the vital role of libraries in creating diverse and inclusive communities. Libraries may not be open during National Library Week, but they remain committed to the public as much as they can during this time. While closed, you can still celebrate your library and librarians via social media. When libraries do eventually re-open, find your place at the library and take advantage of everything they have to offer.

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