Local Libraries Respond to COVID-19: Closures, Online Events & Digital Resources

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The Portage Lake District Library (PLDL) is closed, but the library is making an extra effort to ensure that patrons have access to digital library collections. The staff is also offering a variety of online programs, such as storytime. Children and families can tune in to the library’s Facebook page on Monday mornings at 10:15am for Baby & Me Storytime, and on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10:15am for pre-school age storytime.

Both the library in Houghton and the Hancock School Public Library (HSPL) are also offering a new educational resource that they hope will assist students and families who want to continue to learn while schools are closed. TumbleBookLibrary is a collection of animated talking picture books, read-alongs, eBooks, quizzes, lesson plans and educational games. No Library card is required to use the service. 

PLDL and HSPL want to remind library patrons of the many online resources available to them from the safety of their home. “We know you might be cooped up for a while,” said PLDL Library Director Dillon Geshel. “There’s really no better time to explore our collection of more than 14,000 digital books, audiobooks, magazines and movies. It’s all free with your library card.” Cardholders can download the library’s Libby app, their largest collection of digital materials, from app stores on most digital devices.

All previously expired library cards have been reactivated, and library cards that have been barred due to unpaid bills have also been reinstated. “We hope this helps ensure all community members can access our digital collections during this difficult time,” said Geshel. “We’re here to help.”

The Hancock library has been working closely with the school district to ensure their students still have access to necessary educational materials. Hancock’s Library Manager Boni Ashburn prepared the school’s fleet of classroom Chromebooks for checkout, and are now available for students to pick up from the weekly food distribution at Barkell Elementary. Books on hold for students are also being distributed in this way.

Also new at the Hancock library is the ability for the public to sign-up for an all-access digital library card online. Hancock’s library has no residency requirement for membership, and anyone can sign up for a free library card. These digital library cards unlock access to expansive collections of digital books, movies, magazines, language learning tools and more. Library staff hope this will help ensure everyone in our community has access to the educational and recreational reading materials they need during the pandemic.

“The closure of our schools puts an increased burden on public libraries as children and families turn to us for their social, educational and even childcare needs,” Geshel went on to say. “It’s an odd predicament for us, because we are usually a refuge for people during a crisis. However, staying open during a pandemic could contribute to the further spread of COVID-19.”

Last week, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order that ordered all libraries to close to the public alongside bars, restaurants, and other areas of public accommodation. Please contact the library at 906-482-4570 or at dgeshel@pldl.org for more information on limited services during the mandated closure.

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