Frederick County Public Libraries is helping people reach their reading goals and stay entertained as businesses and schools remain closed due to concerns over the coronavirus.
The library system is offering hundreds of thousands of digital materials including e-books, audiobooks, movies, music, digital comic books and educational courses while libraries are closed.
According to Teresa Vorce, materials manager for FCPL, the library system is partnered with numerous platforms that offer materials digitally to library users.
To access the collections, users can visit the FCPL website or download the apps individually. Digital partners include Hoopla, Libby by Overdrive and Kanopy.
Collections are updated weekly by both Vorce and the vendors and are always growing with the latest books and movies, she said.
Additionally, Vorce said FCPL is offering temporary library cards to anyone who wants one in order to access digital content. Those interested simply have to register online. Normally, temporary library cards expire after two weeks, but Vorce said they have lifted expiration dates for the time being.
Digital content such as books and magazines can be checked out virtually and will remain in user accounts for 21 days — the same time frame as when hard-copy books are checked out from the library.
Movies and other content may expire after a few days, Vorce said.
The great thing about digital content, Vorce said, is that users don’t have to worry about returning items or accumulating late fees, and materials are most likely always available.
“They just disappear, and if there’s no holds, you can just check it out again immediately,” she said.
There are also numerous educational resources through FCPL where users can learn languages and take courses on everything from graphic design to gardening.
Due to the closure, FCPL has also begun two new streaming story-time services.
Every weekday at 10 a.m., parents and children can tune in via Facebook and watch a member of the FCPL team read a story and do different child-centered activities such as singing, rhyming and puppets.
Janet Vogel, youth services manager for FCPL, said each reading lasts about 20 minutes and is targeted for children 6 years old and younger.
At 8 p.m. each weekday, families can also tune in to a reading of “Treasure Island.” Vogel said FCPL staff will read a chapter a day and that it is appropriate for most ages.
Since “Treasure Island” has 31 chapters, Vogel said staff is trying to determine whether the readings would continue if libraries were to reopen sooner.
“We think if it’s well-received, it’s definitely something we will consider [continuing],” Vogel said. “And the great thing about that book is it’s available in a variety of formats so people can check it out and finish it on their own.”
FCPL has always wanted to do something like the story times, Vogel said, but had not due to copyright laws that mandate what books can be shared online. With libraries shutting down across the country due to COVID-19, many authors and publishing houses have lifted copyright restrictions, Vogel said, allowing books to be shared in a variety of ways.
“That has allowed us to dive into something that we hadn’t been able to do before ... and story time is something that is pretty accessible to many families,” Vogel said. “It’s something that is easy to get into, you don’t need any special equipment from home, and it’s something fun to keep a variety of ages entertained.”
Vogel added that as of now, the library plans to continue the story times as long as they are able to and that staff is trying to come up with more programming ideas in case closures extend past the scheduled two weeks.
The Spring Reading Challenge, hosted by FCPL and Beanstack, is also in full swing and will continue through May. Participants can log their minutes and receive badges for how much reading they have done.
Vogel said despite libraries and many other systems being closed, the goal at FCPL is to continue providing and connecting people to resources.
“We are all about building a community of lifelong learners. ... We know this is a challenging time and we want to be able to connect people wherever we can,” she said.