Libraries were among the first council venues to close as COVID-19 restrictions came in but this hasn’t stopped councils from coming up with innovative ways to continue to provide services.
The pandemic has had a significant impact on resources with around 1,700 council librarians seeking redeployment or support in Queensland alone, according LGAQ.
But many councils say demand for online library services is booming as they offer increased online activities and even use frontline staff to deliver books to vulnerable people at home.
Melbourne city council says it’s had a 23 per cent increase in its online services since coronavirus.
Council says there were 19,182 online loans over March, the highest ever for a single month.
That figure includes 8,837 eBook loans and 10,345 audiobooks.
Thousands of eMagazines, online newspapers, films, videos and learning resources have also been accessed and film streaming via council platforms more than doubled over March.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp says it’s a sign people are taking advantage of free library resources during social distancing.
Childrens’ librarians are also delivering online storytime sessions through a council Youtube channel.
Melbourne City’s Knowledge City portfolio chair Dr Jackie Watts said the library closures have driven a trend that was already occurring across council libraries.
“We are all adjusting our lives to cope with COVID-19 and many of us are looking for new activities,” she said.
Story Time goes online
Staff from City of Darwin’s library and Fun Bus mobile playgroup service last week notched more than 1400 unique viewers for Story Time for young children.
Council has since added its STEAM activity program for primary aged children and Lego Club to its online resources.
Lord Mayor Kon Vatskalis says the COVID-19 response has created a new world and councils are responding.
“City of Darwin staff have responded and adapted very quickly to changes, ensuring our popular Library and Fun Bus programs continue to reach their audience.”
“I’m delighted that these programs have proven as popular online as they have been in our Libraries – in fact they have been even more popular online.”
From this week new programs will focus on interactive science, technology, engineering, arts and maths teaching.
Partnership with State Library
Central Coast Council has entered a partnership with the NSW State Library to provide access to the indyreads eBook platform.
Connected Communities director Julie Vaughan says the deal adds to Council’s existing platforms, providing access to thousands of Australian and international titles.
“We are continuing to investigate options to expand our online collection in response to increased demand and are actively looking for new ways to bring events online as well as other innovative ways to connect our community,” Ms Vaughan said.
Home delivery service
Meanwhile, Northern Beaches Council has come up with a unique solution to library closures and is offering a home delivery service while social isolation continues.
In Council’s Library 2U service, staff deliver personally selected items to elderly or vulnerable people who are confined to their homes.
Less vulnerable residents with library membership can use the Click and Collect option to reserve items and pick them up from outside their library, or librarians can make a personal selection for them based on previous choices.
“These are extraordinary times and we are continuing to identify ways we can work differently to service our community,’’ Mayor Michael Regan says.
“That is why we have established these options for our library members. Our frontline library staff will now be diverted to facilitate this service.”
Many councils have also waived fines until library chutes reopen.
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