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With Buildings Closed, Librarians Are Finding Creative Ways To Reach Their Patrons

Libraries across the Miami Valley, like Wright Memorial in Oakwood, will be closed during National Library Week. But they are finding new ways to reach people online.
Libraries across the Miami Valley, like Wright Memorial in Oakwood, will be closed during National Library Week. But they are finding new ways to reach people online.

It’s National Library Week, which usually means big events at libraries all across the country. Unfortunately, most libraries are closed right now. So, librarians are moving the party online and reaching their patrons in some pretty creative ways.

The slogan for National Library Week was supposed to be “Find Your Place at the Library.” That was before the coronavirus outbreak.

Libraries have been forced to close their physical locations, but librarians are pretty quick-thinkers. They changed the slogan from “Find Your Place at the Library” to “Find the Library at Your Place.”

And that’s what millions of people have been doing in this time of quarantines and stay-at-home orders. They’re checking out e-books and attending lectures and seminars virtually.

Holly Varley, the Collection Development Director at Dayton Metro Library, looks at circulation data and sees how patrons are switching up their borrowing patterns.

“Our movie and TV use from streaming video services has doubled over the same time last year,” Varley says. “So, definitely, people are binge watching since they’re stuck at home.”

Dayton Metro Library is also coming to the aid of parents who have suddenly found themselves homeschooling their children.

Library patrons can connect to a homework service called “Help Now,” which allows users to chat online with real teachers in real time.

“They’re there. They’re live, and they’ll help kids and parents with those homework questions,” Varley says. “Math is definitely the biggie right now.”

If you don’t have a library card, Varley says it’s easy to get an eCard on the library website and dive right into the electronic services they offer.

And libraries aren’t only online these days.

Wright Memorial Library in Oakwood has been reaching out to the community in a decidedly old school way. They’ve started a Dial-A-Story service that allows people to call 937-234-7527 and hear a children’s story read by a librarian.

The idea came from Jacqui Taylor, the Youth Services Coordinator at Wright Memorial.

“It is a blast from the past, and I kind of love it,” she says. “I decided to do a Dial-A-Story service because I remember Dial-A-Prayer services for homebound patients and homebound folks whenever I was a kid going to church.”

Taylor says, the great thing about this service is that it limits screen time, something that’s become harder for both children and adults with so much schoolwork—and work-work—being done online now.

“With Dial-A-Story, you’re disconnected from a screen,” Taylor says. “You’re working on those oral skills, where you are listening to absorb information, and just plain enjoying good cuddle time with your parents.”

The service has been a hit with kids in the community, with some of them calling the line over and over to hear stories.

That’s not to say Wright Memorial is anti-screen time. Taylor says the library offers access to many large online collections, and they’ve been able to move almost all their special events online.

Wright Memorial is hosting teen trivia nights, online story times, meditation classes, a poster contest, virtual seminars on planting and landscaping for Earth Day… And that’s just some of this week’s events.

They’re also experimenting with different platforms to reach different kinds of people.

“We’ve got SnapChat and Google Hangouts for our teens. For adults, we’re looking at Zoom being the most popular and perhaps some Skype Hangouts. For the little kids, you’re counting on them having access to YouTube Kids. And for those tweens, the sweet spot? That’s TicTok,!” Taylor says. “So, I’m hoping to develop quasi-educational content that’s appropriate for TicTok.”

During this year’s National Library Week, you can find programs and services being offered from public libraries almost anywhere in the world… You just can’t go to the library.