By Jennifer K. Bauer
Area librarians have been on a roller coaster ride the last two weeks as states, cities and counties decide for or against closing doors to the public to slow the spread of COVID-19.
After many quickly instituted curbside pickup service for materials last week, sweeping public restrictions ended that option Monday for branches in Washington. Many libraries in Idaho also dropped curbside pickup, reasoning it was only a matter of time before they would be told they must.
Now librarians are focused on sharing their vast online offerings with the public. They are creating digital story times and other livestreaming events. Websites and social media pages are being frequently updated to highlight electronic services people can access for free with a library card number.
“We’ve started beefing up those purchases in the last week, knowing that’s the resource people can still get ahold of,” said Lynn Johnson, director of the Lewiston City Library.
The majority of these services require a library card number to access. If you don’t have one, you can obtain one by contacting your nearest library. People living in Whitman County can email email@example.com or call the library and leave a message, said Kristie Kirkpatrick, director of the library’s main branch in Colfax. Others in the region are on the Valnet system and can go to the Valnet website and click on “Log into your account” to access a temporary card. Valet was opened up to allow people to self-register, Johnson said. “We’ve removed a lot of the barriers to that to make it more available.”
People should keep in mind that children in public schools have assigned library numbers, she said. Librarians would like to avoid having duplicates created. If people have never had a card before, they should select the library nearest to where they live when registering, Johnson said. “That will help us keep our statistics better for next fall when we do our state reports.”
The Valnet website lists updates of all of its branches’ closures and activities. Though patrons cannot go into libraries, Wi-Fi service remains available around the outside of library buildings.
People don’t have to worry about returning books that currently are checked out, Johnson said. Area libraries have extended due dates through the end of April. Book drops for returned books were closed this week in Washington. In Idaho, some libraries, including the one in Lewiston, were still accepting returns Tuesday, although that could change, Johnson said, depending on decisions made by individual cities.
To stay abreast of the latest developments and library activities, Johnson advised people to check their local library’s website and social media pages, where librarians are staying connected to patrons.
“There’s still stuff going on,” she said. “It’s just going to look different for awhile.”
Libraries are thriving online with a multitude of programs, subscriptions and other services patrons can access electronically with a library card number. Here’s a look at a few. Check your local library’s website for links to these and many others. Some libraries are updating holdings daily.
Kanopy is a film streaming service available free through area libraries. Its catalog includes more than 30,000 documentaries, classics and indie films. It also offers the Great Courses, a series of college-level instructional videos exploring a huge range of topics, from history and technology to language and art. (Valnet and Whitman County Libraries)
Libby is a slick app adopted by regional libraries that lets you browse, read and listen to thousands of free ebooks and audiobooks on a variety of devices, including smartphones. (Valnet and Whitman County Libraries)
Mango Languages offers lessons in 70 foreign languages, including French, German and Spanish, but it also provides opportunities to learn far more obscure tongues, like Cherokee, Ancient Greek and Shakespearian English. (Whitman County Library)
Pronunciator provides lessons in 140 languages with personalized courses, movies, music and more, using a desktop computer or mobile devices. (Available to patrons living in Idaho through Valnet)
Lynda.com offers thousands of professional, self-paced courses covering business skills, marketing, design, photography, programming and more. (Whitman County Library)
TumbleBook Library is an online collection of animated, talking picture books that teaches kids the joy of reading. TumbleBooks are created by adding animation, sound, music and narration to existing picture books in order to produce an electronic picture book which you can read or have read to you. TumbleMath is another offering. (Valnet and Whitman County Library)
TeenBookCloud is a collection of ebooks, graphic novels, chapter books, enhanced novels, videos, educational videos and audiobooks targeting middle and high school grades. (Valnet and Whitman County Library)