In search of the right words

Clinton Library mixes old school and high-tech to meet readers’ needs

With libraries and bookstores closed, reading is a bit more difficult right now.

Some have a backlog of books they need to work their way through, but not everyone is in that situation.

Meg Harrison, from Clinton Public Library, said the library is trying its hardest to reopen, but they’re doing it as safely as possible.

“I can’t really give you any hard dates. I’ve written a phased reopening plan for us that goes before the board on Thursday. Once that’s voted on, we’ll have more hard dates for people, but it’s going to be based on data, not dates, so it’ll be dependent on total infections and new infections in the county,” she said.

A library board meeting will take place at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 21, online.

Anyone interested in watching it should email the public library account and ask for the link.

Harrison said the library is currently offering curbside pick up, and trying its best to fulfill its usual roles for the community.

“We definitely want people to know they can get items,” said Harrison. “They just have to call us or place a hold on an item online and we’ll arrange a time for them to pick it up, same way you’d arrange a pick up at Walmart or Kroger. We’ve started making library cards online as well.

“If you go online, you can apply for a library card and we’ll make it and you can come and pick it up. That way people can still get access to Overdrive and Libby.

“We’re doing programming online, trying to have new content everyday. We have storytime every Monday and Wednesday, we have adult craft projects on Tuesdays, Lego club online on Thursday. We’re going to be doing summer reading, but our summer reading will be online this year. People can find all of it on our facebook page or our website,” she continued.

Libby, for anyone unaware, is the library’s digital archive, and an updated version of the old Overdrive system that libraries have been using to lend digital books for a number of years now.

How it works is that the local library sets up an account with Libby. The library chooses which digital books they want to provide, and set the limits on how long each book can be borrowed and how many can be borrowed at a time – the same way they do with physical books. You log into the app with your library card.

There’s also waiting lists for popular books and the app tells you how many people in front of you are waiting for the book or audiobook.

Books you “check out” are automatically returned on their due date so there’s no worry about late fees.

It’s a way that libraries are changing to suit their customers’ needs and a great boon during these strange times, and it’s also a way for people to dip their toe into another way to consume their favorite books. In October of last year, Pew Research stated that 1 in 5 Americans now listen to audiobooks on a regular basis, and is the only category of book that has increased in popularity in recent years.

According to Harrison, the app’s usage for Clinton’s library has remained relatively stable throughout the quarantine, which is surprising.

“For April, our circulation for reads was 4,425. March was 4,215. February was 4,230. It’s staying pretty average, but we’re still more than 4,000 uses a month,” she said.

Though it’s remained relatively stable, some perspectives show the app’s surge in popularity. Clinton’s “reads (a metric used to measure the usage within a community)” for April of 2019 was 2,990.

After all, how many people really, truly take full advantage of our local library? Not many.