Coronavirus isn’t slowing down Capital Area District Libraries

Library network still providing many key services

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TUESDAY, July 28 — In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, Capital Area District Libraries is still working hard to be an effective community resource.

Though the public can’t set foot in the library and peruse the shelves like usual, books are still accessible via curbside pickup and CADL’s virtual book browsing service. Virtual book browsing is done through 10-minute appointments that are arranged via a phone call to (517) 589-9400 during regular business hours. But if you find searching the entire library all at once without the visual aid of checking out the shelves in person too daunting, CADL is also beefing up its recommendation services.

“While you can’t come in and browse our collection, you can give us a call and we’ll locate and recommend items. You can let us know what genre you like and we’ll pull some items for you to check out,” CADL Executive Director Scott Duimstra said. “Our website also has staff picks for each genre. If anybody visits the ‘Books and More’ section of our website, they can find our new list and our on-order list. We try to mimic the browsing you would do in person.”

CADL is also using the front windows of its libraries to create easily viewable displays for recommended books, music and movies.

As many depend on the library for Internet access, CADL has solutions to circumvent the closed doors. On top of the Wi-Fi being accessible from the parking lot, CADL also has Wi-Fi hotspot devices available for checkout. These little devices, which look like portable phone chargers, act as miniature on-the-go routers that provide Internet access to your computer or smartphone. Right now, CADL has more than 100 on hand. CADL is also working on ways to layout its computers so when its libraries do reopen, people can use them and still maintain proper social distance.

“Besides using our public wireless outside of the building, that’s the only way to get computer access at our libraries. Right now, we’re working on how to rearrange our space so people can start to come in and safely use our public computers,” Duimstra said.

Duimstra clarified that staff members working onsite are still able to print things for the public upon request. Printed material is then picked up curbside as if it were any other media material checked out at the library.

The pandemic has forced CADL to take its children’s programming entirely online, and the public has responded kindly. Duimstra said storytime sessions that would be attended by 10-20 children are now being viewed thousands of times on CADL’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

“We started virtual storytimes and they’ve been fantastic. We’ve had some of them get 2,000 to 3,000 views. That’s something we can’t replicate in our physical space. There’s been something positive things about this; we’ve discovered people like virtual events. We’re going to continue those in the near future,” Duimstra said.

Local businesses are also getting a helping hand from CADL by way of a 4-week course that teaches business owners how to create e-commerce websites. Doing business online is absolutely essential in the age of the coronavirus, so the program, which is funded in part by a $2,000 grant from Google, couldn’t be timelier. At the end of the course, two selected businesses are awarded a one-year subscription to Shopify’s e-commerce software.

“If a business didn’t have an e-commerce site, they were pretty much shut down, so we got grant funding through Google to offer this program,” Duimstra said. “There are 30 businesses that will view this 4-week course. We are going to have the same training again in the fall so the businesses on our waitlist can attend the class as well.”

Duimstra said in order for the libraries to reopen to the public, Ingham County must first no longer be a high-risk area for the coronavirus.

“We look at what other libraries are doing in Michigan, but we also have to look at where we are in our region as far as COVID-19 is concerned. We see, right now, that Lansing is in the high-risk category. I think, for us, we have to get out of that category and then we would slowly turn on services,” Duimstra said. “The next big thing we have to do is find a way to get people inside to safely use our public computers.”

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