Highland County’s libraries may be closed, but that doesn’t mean they’re silent.
Highland County District Library Circulation Manager Sarah Davidson spoke to The Times-Gazette about what the libraries and book lovers are doing to stay connected during the closure.
Davidson, who started working at the library as a part-time employee four years ago, said working at the library really showed her the importance of libraries.
“I didn’t realize how busy libraries are until I started working at the library. They’re community centers nowadays in a lot of ways,” Davidson said. “The library fills a lot of niches in my experience. Coming in as someone who had grown up with libraries but had kind of fallen out of going, coming back and working at the library was really eye-opening and actually comforting to see how many people really love their libraries and the resources libraries have. Obviously, you think of books and audiobooks and children’s programs, but there are also a lot of programs for teens and adults.”
The libraries also have movies and comic books available.
“I’m a comic book collector. Say you want to read the very first Superman — that comic goes for a $1 million; you’re never going to read that,” Davidson said. “But we have collections at the library, and you can read that very first Superman if you want to.”
But beyond the materials available for checkout, libraries also provide community members with computers and Wi-Fi access, and Davidson said that librarians frequently help with things like setting up email addresses.
“Our motto is we’re here for you, and it’s really what we strive for,” Davidson said. “All of our librarians really miss our wonderful patrons. We love serving the community, and we’re eager to get back into the swing of things.”
Since the libraries are currently closed, Highland County librarians like Davidson are using social media and digital resources to stay connected with community members.
Resources like OverDrive, Libby and Hoopla allow library card holders to continue to check out digital materials for free, even if the library is closed.
According to Davidson, OverDrive and Libby have ebooks and audiobooks available for checkout, while Hoopla has movies, television shows and graphic novels.
Libby and Hoopla each allow users 10 checkouts on their respective apps, but Davidson said Hoopla’s Bonus Borrows allow users to checkout certain titles that don’t count toward their checkout limit.
“If you download one of the Bonus Borrows, you can actually have 12, 13, 14, 15 — however many — extra borrows,” she said.
A library card is required to sign up for any of these apps, but Davidson said those who don’t currently have library cards and would like to should contact the library through the “contact us” form on its website, which can be found at www.highlandco.org/contact.
“A lot of people with library cards actually don’t know about these digital resources,” Davidson said. “This is a good opportunity to try out that side of the library.”
The three apps are always free with a library card, Davidson said.
Highland County librarians also created a “Virtual Book Club” Facebook group to help book lovers stay connected and discuss what they’re reading.
“It’s a way for book lovers to share what they’re reading and maybe get an idea of some other books they may want to read,” Davidson said. “It’s another way to keep forming and having connections. It’s kind of the idea that we’re all in this together, even if we’re not literally together right now.”
Though the group provides a way for members of the libraries’ pre-COVID-19 book clubs to continue discussing that month’s books, Davidson said all community members are welcome to join the group and post about what they’re reading, even if they aren’t already in a pre-established club.
Posts in the “Virtual Book Club” group welcome newcomers to pre-existing clubs, like the Hillsboro library’s Bring Your Own Book and Comic Book clubs.
Davidson and other librarians have been working to keep interacting with community members through the library’s Facebook page.
Some librarians, like the Greenfield Branch Library’s Cynthia McKenzie, have posted videos to keep the children’s storytime programs going.
For Easter, the libraries encouraged children and young-at-heart community members to participate in an Easter egg coloring contest, which Davidson said they “paraded” across Facebook on Sunday.
Community members can still vote for their favorite entries until the libraries reopen by visiting the “Highland County District Library of Ohio” Facebook page and liking their favorites. The winner — or winners, depending on the level of participation, Davidson said — will receive a prize.
All Highland County libraries are set to reopen on May 4 — though that date could change as the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold.
“We’re going to keep monitoring the situation so we can make decisions that are best for our staff and everyone in the community,” Davidson said. “The top priority is just making sure we’re operating in a way that people will be safe and healthy.”
The library recently added a page for COVID-19 resources to its website after Lynchburg Branch Library Manager Elaine Williams reached out to Davidson and Highland County District Library Director Suzanne Roberts with the idea.
Resources available on the website cover topics from health and emergency management to the rescheduled primary election to ways to support local businesses.
Find Hoopla, Libby and OverDrive in the App Store and on Google Play. Find them online at www.hoopladigital.com; www.overdrive.com/apps/libby; and www.overdrive.com respectively.
To stay up-to-date with the Highland County District Library, visit www.highlandco.org or the “Highland County District Library of Ohio” Facebook page.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.