Hennepin County Library Closed, Reports Surge in Digital Services
The doors at Hennepin County Libraries are locked due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can’t even return a library book, because book drops are closed. However, today’s library is equipped to weather the storm by offering digital services that patrons can tap into at home. As a result, there’s been a spike in the library’s use of digital services.
“Hennepin County Library has always offered a vast array of online resources as well as online chat and email services to patrons,” said said Ali Turner, Division Manager with Hennepin County Library. “We are continuing and enhancing these during our temporary closure.”
Digital services range from eBooks to downloadable audiobooks, to streaming music. Library staff members are still available to help over the phone, through email, or through the chat function on the website.
“There are thousands of e-books and magazines on hclib.org,” Turner said. “Today you can apply for a library card online and it will be mailed to your home. We are working on an instant virtual library card. As that’s available, it will be promoted on the library’s web page.”
Hennepin County reports the library’s digital activity is up.
“Yes, we are seeing an increase in “Ask Us” online questions in chat and e-mail,” Turner said. “As well as a significant uptick in e-book check out.”
Digital is Up, Buildings are Closed
However, libraries are gathering spaces for many people. Some tap into the internet to search for jobs. Others get homework help at the library or meet up to learn more about a favorite topic. Those amenities might be most missed by patrons. Most staff members began working remotely on March 20, with a decision to close all 41 branches, including book drops, through April 6.
“We know our patrons miss connecting with staff,” Turner said. “Having the opportunity to browse shelves and select items, place physical items on hold and use library computers. We will follow Hennepin County Public Health and Minnesota State Public Health guidelines to provide in-person access to materials and buildings as soon as they deem it is safe to do so.”