While libraries across western Kentucky are temporarily closed, many are offering continued library access through digital services. McCracken County Public Library director, Susan Baier, speaks with Tracy Ross about the library's new, virtual format.
Prior to the pandemic, the McCracken County Public Library already offered a wide array of online services. "Many patrons had been using it...for many years before," Baier begins. "Just as an example: in March, we issued twice the amount of library cards that we did in February, and we were closed in mid-March. Thankfully, we already had a system in place where you could apply online for a digital card. So you could apply for your library card, but do that at home...completely virtually."
"We offer e-books through two major platforms. One is Hoopla, and one is Libby. They are both app-driven, and they give you content to your phone, to your tablet, to your laptop. With Hoopla, in addition to e-books, you can also get e-audio books, movies, music, television shows, graphic novels...so it's been extraordinarily popular."
"We also have a service called Freegal," Baier continues, "which allows you to download five songs [for free]. We also have a service called Lynda.com, which is through LinkedIn learning. That is a platform where you can take courses on thousands of subjects absolutely for free with your library card. Most of the subjects are tailored towards business and technology. We suggest it to people who are looking to build their skill sets and continue education while working from home. It's a great option...we've seen that usage explode in the last few weeks."
In addition to the library's online services, McCracken County Public Library's staff have also been producing digital content to stay connected with patrons. "It's been really inspiring to watch our staff and how nimble and responsive they've been," Baier says. "They just turned on a dime and started cranking out really high-quality content. It's reflective of the needs and interests of the community, but it's also very revealing of the personalities, interests, and talents of our staff."
"For instance, Nathan Blake Lynn [who recently performed on Sounds Good's Live Lunch series] is providing an online, one-hour music and variety show every week from his home. It's been a joy to watch. He's attracting viewers from all over the country."
"We've also done tutorials on a really diverse array of subjects," Baier continues. "We have a staff member who is an avid outdoors-woman; she is a hunter and a fisherwoman. She's been doing content on things like turkey hunting, making fish bait, going morel mushroom hunting."
"We're also bringing in experts to offer programming to our audience. That's something that we did when we were open, and I'm really grateful that we can translate it to an online format. We have brought in people to discuss legal issues, financial issues, especially how they relate to our new environment of COVID-19."
Additionally, the library's weekly Story Time program has shifted to an online format. "So many families have said they really appreciated that degree of normalcy in their child's life -- that still once a week, they could get together with their McCracken County Library story time friends and have that experience," Baier says.
Any resident of Kentucky is eligible for a McCracken County Library digital services card. "There is a form online. If you go to McLib.net/join, you fill out your form, and within a day or two, we are e-mailing you your library card credentials. You can get started without ever having to leave your house."
The McCracken County Public Library's 50th birthday fell on April 28, 2020. Festivities planned a year in advance were forced to be postponed due to the pandemic, which Baier said "was a blow, but we know we'll come back. The ideas are still great ideas, and they are on a shelf for when we are able to bring them back, and we can be together again."
"Something that ended up being really special, though -- our board had their standard monthly meeting on our actual birthday on April 28th, which was just a happy accident. On that day, they voted for the library to become fine-free. They made this very historic decision on our 50th birthday. I thought that was very meaningful and very special and a really wonderful way to acknowledge our 50th birthday. What a gift to our community," Baier concludes.