By DANIEL KITTREDGE The Cranston Public Library and its various branches may be physically closed as result of the ongoing health crisis, but its mission of serving the community hasn't stopped. "e;Libraries are not designed for social distance . It's
The Cranston Public Library and its various branches may be physically closed as result of the ongoing health crisis, but its mission of serving the community hasn’t stopped.
“Libraries are not designed for social distance … It’s really kind of tough for us in that environment,” Library Director Ed Garcia said. “We’ve been trying to launch as many virtual programs as we can.”
The library has launched a Storytime Online program featuring staff members and others reading books for children up to 5 years old. The sessions are live streamed every Wednesday morning at 10:30 a.m., and the videos can be found on YouTube and Facebook. Mayor Allan Fung took part in a recent video, reading “The Don’t Worry Book” by Todd Parr.
A Virtual Book Club has also been launched, and will meet virtually via Facebook and Twitter during the week of April 6-11 to discuss comedian Michael McCreary’s memoir “Funny You Don’t Look Autistic.” The book is available as an ebook or digital audiobook with no waitlists or holds through OverDrive’s Big Library Read program.
Garcia said the library recently launched an online chat service through which patrons can connect with reference librarians. The service will be available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is staffed by librarians working from home. He said plans are in the works to develop a phone service for those who are unable to use the online chat, although logistics still need to be finalized given that staff are working remotely.
Garcia highlighted other online services available through the library, including the Ocean State Libraries eZone – a collection of ebooks and audiobooks available to library card holders – and Kanopy, a streaming service with a range of feature films and documentaries. Library card holders can receive eight free play credits per month for use on Kanopy.
Additional services include Tumblebooks, an ebook service without waitlists or holds; eZone For Kids, an online digital collection of children’s materials; Tutor.com, while provides homework assistance; Mango Languages, a free language instruction service; and an archive of historical newspapers from Cranston.
A full listing of the library’s online resources is available at cranstonlibrary.org/online-resources-you-can-use-now.
Garcia also noted that free WiFi access is available in the parking lot of the Central Library on Sockanosett Cross Road.
“Our WiFi is always on,” he said. “We want people to stay in their cars and social distance, but if they need to get online … We want to make sure people know that that’s available.”
Garcia said those who do not currently have a library card can apply online, and staff members have been processing those applications within a day or two. As of late last week, he said more than 20 applications had been processed. The application can be found at oslri.org/application.
The library director also reiterated that the library has extended the due date on all current loan materials through May 1. Fines have been waived during that period. He urged people not to return materials through drop-off boxes in order to avoid pile-ups, since staff members are not regularly in the library buildings.
“I would love it if people keep their stuff at home. We’ll get it back when we reopen,” he said.
Garcia said ebook circulation us “up a lot” since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In a recent press release, Ocean State Libraries echoed that observation, saying that demand for digital library services is greater than ever.
According to Ocean State Libraries, library card signups had increased by 167 percent as of March 26. The organization has seen the number of daily applications increase from nine to 24, with a peak of 55 applications on March 23. Additional, ebook and digital audiobook use has increased 23 percent.
“This event underscores the essential roles that libraries play in the fabric of American society,” Ocean State Libraries Executive Director Stephen Spohn said in the release. “Libraries empower learning, community and imagination. Today, libraries are reaching out to their communities with digital story times, digital book clubs and other digital programs to help communities to come together when the events of the day are keeping us all apart.”