It’s National Library Week, and though libraries around the area remain closed to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re offering more virtual services than ever to keep connected with the community.
Shenandoah County Library in Edinburg has been holding its successful weekly storytime through its Facebook and YouTube pages and on Monday launched a new online book club, said Library Director Sandy Whitesides.
“We are doing our best to connect with people outside of the building because they can’t come into our building,” said Whitesides. “We’re doing a lot even though our doors are closed.”
He said the library has had a “big push” toward virtual resources that people can access from home.
The new book club is available through a link from the library’s Facebook page, and Whitesides said it likely will include a video chat element. Participants can access books through the library’s free Hoopla ebook service.
Looking ahead, he said other library programs will have to change to accommodate safety precautions.
“Summer reading, we think, is going to look a lot different,” Whitesides said. “It’s not going to be big performances and gatherings.”
However, he said the focus, as always, will be to encourage families to read together.
Samuels Public Library in Front Royal will begin its Early Bird Summer Reading Club on May 1, which Adult Services Supervisor Kitti McKean said is earlier than usual.
“We had three choices,” she said. Choose to delay the summer reading program, start it on time or start it early. Since people are home anyway, she said, they opted for starting it early and running for 12 weeks.
She said weekly prizes through the adult program will include gift certificates from area businesses.
“It’s kind of our way of giving back to the community,” she said.
“We are continually looking for ways to serve our patrons during this difficult time,” Michal Ashby, youth services supervisor states in a Friday news release announcing the summer reading kickoff. “One way that we are doing that is to plan for the future.”
She said the summer reading club goal is to “promote reading among the children of our area, and to encourage them, even if it is done remotely.”
The Adult Summer Reading program’s theme is Dig Into Reading.
“While our building may be closed, the library staff is committed to serving our community in any way possible,” Interim Library Director Eileen Grady states in the release.
The library has expanded many of its virtual library services and added some new ones, she said.
Patrons can access free Wi-Fi from the parking lot or outdoor picnic tables, though they’re “strongly encouraged to practice safe social distancing while using this service,” the release states.
Also at the library:
Virtual Storytimes with librarians are available on Thursdays at facebook.com/samuelspubliclibrary.
Hoopla is a digital media database that allows library patrons to borrow movies, TV shows, music, eBooks, audiobooks and comics free from home: samuelslibrary.net/index.php/hoopla-ancestry.
Thousands of eBooks and eAudiobooks are accessible on Overdrive with the Libby app, and music is free with Freegal: samuelslibrary.net/index.php/helpful-resources
Universal Class is a free resource, offering online classes and tutorials varying on subjects like candle and soap making, office skills and resume help.
All area libraries, including those in the Handley Library System, have waived the usual fees for late books and are allowing patrons to hold onto their borrowed books until libraries reopen.
Samuels Library is accepting books at its dropbox, Shenandoah is discouraging it, and Handley has temporarily closed its dropboxes, according to its website.
Handley is also listing updates on virtual programs at its Facebook page, facebook.com/handleyregional, including children’s storytimes, club meetings and daily challenges during National Library Week.
Libraries are taking applications for new library cards during the pandemic, offering at least limited services to new cardholders.
McKean said new cardholders at Samuels will receive a temporary card number giving them access to certain services like downloading books. Database services like Ancestry Library Edition’s remote access likely will not be available to new members. Once the library opens, she said patrons will need to verify their identity and home address to get a card that gives them full access.
Handley Regional Library System is offering digital library cards through its website and will email new members their card number for digital library services until the library reopens.
Shenandoah is offering temporary six-month cards online to new library members, Whitesides said.
“We’re holding the physical card in the building,” he said.
Shenandoah County Library has a new email address, email@example.com, to answer the community’s questions about virtual programs and the library’s response to COVID-19.
This story has been updated to reflect the new email address for Shenandoah County Library, which was mistakenly attributed to Samuels Public Library.