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Dial This Number to Hear a Singing Librarian

Screenshots of library staff recording audio at home

Libraries are hubs for their communities—while most libraries have had to close to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, many are working hard to keep people connected while maintaining social distancing. Park Ridge Public Library (PRPL) in Illinois has found a creative way to engage and entertain locals: the Library Line, a phone number anyone can call to hear a recorded song, riddle, or message from staff.

The project emerged organically over the course of the pandemic. Library director Heidi Smith is a trained singer in addition to being a librarian, so she started texting clips of herself singing to a colleague to thank him for his hard work. When other staff and Heidi’s relatives expressed interest in hearing the recordings too, she set up a Google Voice number that they could dial to listen in. The PRPL team realized this could go way beyond the staff and their families, and so the Library Line was born: each day, a different staff member creates a recording based around a topic of their choice. Their daily schedule reflects the diverse interests of the librarians and the community they serve:

Mondays: Movie Monday with Matt

Tuesdays: What Rosanne’s Reading

Wednesdays: Local History with Lori

Thursdays: The Singing Librarian with Heidi

Fridays: Riddles with Larry

Saturdays: Book/Movies/TV with Cathy

Sundays: Inspirational Quotes with Laura M.

Thus far, the Library Line has been called more than 650 times. It’s proved to be a valuable way to keep community members connected, especially local seniors who may not have access to a computer or cell phone at home—they can get the full call-in experience all from a landline.

This initiative reflects the PRPL’s larger commitment to keeping in touch with patrons, even when they can’t spend time together face to face. Staff members have made hundreds of calls to check in on regular patrons and volunteers. “[Staff] were missing the connections they had with these folks, missed chatting with them when they came in the library, and wanted to check in and make sure they were doing OK,” Heidi Smith told I Love Libraries. “They have shared information about the Library Line with the folks they call, updated them on how library services evolving, and for some brave souls, helped them navigate the new world of eBooks.”

Even if you’re not in Park Ridge, you can dial in to the Library Line to hear their daily message—call 847-220-7053 for the latest recording.

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