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A Librarian’s Tips for Readers During Quarantine

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by Stephanie Saba

Browsing through bookstacks is a time-honored way to discover new authors—but with widespread library closures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, exploring the shelves in-person is temporarily off-limits. Still, your library is here for you remotely, offering virtual services and tools to find your next favorite book from home.

Stephanie Saba, community program supervisor at San Mateo County Libraries in California, spoke with I Love Libraries about finding book recommendations, reading during quarantine, and more. Here are some of her top tips for readers during these challenging times:

Reach out to your librarian for suggestions

Readers’ advisory is one of the things I love most about being a librarian! People often come into the library looking for something to read. If they’re not set on a particular title or author, they may ask library staff for recommendations. While we haven’t read every book in the library, we usually know what’s popular with our patrons. Given the current circumstances, many libraries are now providing reader’s advisory services virtually. San Mateo County Libraries have implemented a robust customer care team to help our patrons with anything from e-resources to finding a new read. Our patrons can call, text, or email staff and receive a quick response. Even though our buildings are closed, we’re still able to provide support in a variety of ways.

Explore book recommendations on social media

One of my favorite places to find books is on Instagram. I especially love seeing what my favorite authors are reading and have found quite a few great books by scrolling through my feed. I admit, I sometimes do judge a book by its cover, so the visual aspect of Instagram is very appealing to me. A few of my friends have Goodreads accounts, so I use it as both a source of book recommendations and to keep track of what I’ve read.

Keep tabs on your library online

Most libraries are active on social media, and many of them post book recommendations on their accounts. At San Mateo County Libraries, we will be launching a personalized staff suggestion service sometime this summer. This exciting new virtual service will allow our staff to connect our patrons with personally relevant and impactful materials in our collection. We also have a “staff picks” section in our weekly e-newsletter with recommendations.

Check out virtual programs from your library

We’re here for you! We really miss seeing your faces in our buildings, but libraries around the country are putting out amazing digital content. I’ve been so impressed by all the virtual programs my coworkers have been producing each week. We have exciting things in store for the summer and while it will look different than summers past, our commitment to providing free, high-quality resources to our community is stronger than ever. We’ve created live online experiences and events, added a new customer support service, and redesigned our homepage to focus on online exploration and digital materials. 

Don’t sweat your reading goals during the pandemic

Don’t put any pressure on yourself! If you can’t concentrate on a novel, maybe pick up a collection of short stories or a magazine. I’ve been enjoying juvenile and young adult fiction, as I sometimes find those easier to read when I’m easily distracted. I also really love graphic novels. I’m not reading as much as I normally would with everything that’s going on, but I am trying to dedicate some screen-free reading time for myself every day, even if it’s only 15 minutes.

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