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How Libraries Are Keeping Their Communities Strong During COVID-19

Exterior of New York Public Library

The coronavirus pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for Americans of all walks of life. Nearly all of the nation’s libraries have had to close their doors to the public, but library staff have still been hard at work to support their communities while maintaining social distancing. From expanding existing remote services to developing innovative new programs, librarians have harnessed their creativity and expertise to help people through these difficult times.

Here are just a few of the crucial services libraries have been providing COVID-19:

Sharing free electronic resources

Libraries offer free access to eBooks, audiobooks, movies, music, newspapers, databases, and more. This vast array of digital media has been a lifeline during the pandemic, allowing people to stay entertained and informed at home. (Looking for book recommendations? Here’s what librarians and library users have been reading during quarantine.)

Hosting virtual programs and activities

While the pandemic has prevented libraries from holding in-person community events, staff have adapted to the realities of social distancing by developing online and phone programming to bring people together remotely. With virtual book clubs, storytimes, and more, there are library programs for people of all ages and interests.

Expanding Wi-Fi access in their communities

With work, school, and socialization all taking place online, online access is more important than ever, but many Americans in rural and low-income communities lack an internet connection at home. Libraries have quickly stepped up to fill this crucial need, from stationing bookmobiles equipped with hotspots around their service areas to leaving the Wi-Fi on in their parking lots so that people can connect from parked cars.

Offering virtual reference assistance

Libraries have been providing one-on-one remote reference assistance via email, text, phone calls, video conferencing, and more. Librarians have made themselves available to questions from information seekers in the community, whether they need help finding a particular book or are wondering how to start researching a particular topic.

Helping document this moment in history

We’re living in unprecedented times, and libraries are working to collect and preserve their communities’ stories and memories from the pandemic for future generations. Many libraries have started oral history projects and archives documenting life during COVID-19. The American Library Association has also partnered with StoryCorps to launch a new platform for recording conversations between loved ones about their experiences.

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