Our libraries’ doors closed to the public soon after school closings were announced. A few weeks ago, this scenario was unthinkable. We depend on local libraries as places to socialize and to take the kids on a rainy day, as well as providing a source of books and movies. Now, some of you are making headway through the stack of books on your bedside tables, and maybe wondering where the next book will come from (or rejoicing that your usual large stack of books won’t be due until libraries re-open). Then again, maybe you’re wishing you could be in a plush-seated theater, watching thought-provoking movies.
The good news is that even though going out to the library and going to movie theaters is off the table, you can still access a dizzying array of books, audiobooks, films, and more if you master our libraries’ digital resources. Some libraries are increasing lending limits on streaming services to accommodate our current needs, or purchasing additional ebooks and digital audiobooks. To try these, all you need is a library card, an email address, a bit of patience and determination, and maybe the help of a local librarian to get set up.
Amy Ryan, Vineyard Haven library director, reports that as of Saturday, all expired library cards, including those that have late fees or overdue items, will be renewed, and that e-cards are now available online.
The libraries’ original online resource is Overdrive, an online ebook and audiobook library. You can access it on a desktop computer via clamsnet.overdrive.com, or download the Libby app for smartphones or tablet computers. Once there, you can browse through ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines in various categories, or search for a specific title. Most Island libraries also subscribe to Hoopla, an app and lending service which includes a collection of ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines that’s curated separately from the Overdrive collection. It also has graphic novels, comics, movies, TV shows, and music.
For movies and TV shows, Hoopla and Kanopy are a good place to start. Kanopy is an on-demand streaming video service, with PBS shows (which you can also watch on the PBS website), The Great Courses, foreign and independent films, and more. You have to register for each service separately, or download their apps to your smartphone or tablet. I hadn’t used them before, so I tried signing up. It wasn’t 100 percent seamless, but it didn’t take terribly long. Once I was connected, I was impressed with the array of offerings. My husband was excited to find “Rick and Morty,” so we watched an episode of that with dinner.
Educational and reference materials are also available via the libraries, including Mango Languages and Live Lingua. Between these, you can learn everything from Spanish and Portuguese to Mongolian and Zarma. You can research genealogy, search databases, read the New York Times, and more, depending on what your local library offers. If this isn’t quite enough, or if you’re looking for something different again, you can sign up for a Boston Public Library e-card, available to all residents of Massachusetts. The landing page at bpl.org has many interesting links, and a blog. Some resources that are typically accessible only from the library are open to home use, including TumbleBooksLibrary and TumbleMath for grades K-6, with lesson plans.
Back here on the Island, libraries are looking for ways to offer some events online. Last week, the Vineyard Haven library moved its book group discussion to a phone-in format. Program coordinator Anne McDonough reports that it wasn’t quite like meeting in person, but says it was nice to hear other voices. West Tisbury library will hold its next book club meeting, a discussion of Jane Austen’s “Emma,” over Zoom, and is hoping to add more programming via Zoom.
In Edgartown, children’s librarian Elyce Retmier has set up a Facebook page called Edgartown Library Children’s Place, where she conducts two daily live story times (10:30 am and 3:30 pm). She posts craft ideas and activities that families can do at home, and will be scheduling live streams with local authors and others. Emily LaPierre, Vineyard Haven children’s librarian, has posted “Fun & Free Home Activities for Kids!” as a Facebook event. On its page, she regularly posts activity ideas, videos, and encouraging words for parents.
There are sure to be more online events as these weeks unfold, so check your library’s website or social media regularly. Meanwhile, if you have problems getting set up, need to figure out your library card’s PIN number, or have other questions, contact your local library using the contact details below. In general, librarians are available to return calls during regular library hours.
Aquinnah: Email email@example.com.
Chilmark: Email firstname.lastname@example.org, with “digital help” in the subject and your name and phone number in the message.
Oak Bluffs: Contact Nina Ferry (email@example.com or 508-693-9433, ext. 145) for help with digital resources, or Allyson Malik (firstname.lastname@example.org, 508-693-9433, ext. 141) for help with library cards and PINs.
Vineyard Haven: Leave a voicemail at 508-696-4210 with a call-back number. A staff member will return your call, or email email@example.com.
West Tisbury: Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 508-693-3366 and leave a message with a call-back number.