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Libraries Are a Refuge in Times of Crisis

March 13, 2020

Libraries are centers for learning, for trusted information, and critical resources that communities need to thrive. They connect us with each other, with the world, and with vital information—online, through books and other resources, and through activities and services.

Now more than ever, as schools and universities close, programs and events are canceled, and we are asked to physically distance ourselves to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus, libraries and those who work there are rising to the challenge. They’re demonstrating strength, dedication, resourcefulness, and the essential role they play during this time of community need.

How Libraries are Responding

Trusted sources of information: Misinformation about COVID-19 is widespread, and many people are looking to their libraries to help sort through information, both in person and online. For example:

  • Prince George’s County Memorial Library System has multiple video resources; general information is broken down by topics which include links to in depth resources, and a timeline of the CDC’s response with links.
     
  • Richland County Library has general information and contact information for local health services, media literacy for fact checking, health and safety resources, travel advisories and information, and local South Carolina school closings.
     
  • Maplewood Memorial Library has provided links, phone numbers and websites to local officials New Jersey Citizens can reach out to. They have also provided fact-checking websites for patrons to verify other information they may find.

Internet access: Many people don’t have access to the internet at home, even as schools close and workers are sent home. Libraries offer computer use, free wi-fi at their facilities, and some have hotspot lending programs that help address the lack of equity in home broadband access across the nation. For more information, check out IMLS’s Public Libraries Survey report.

Online resources: Some libraries are closing, but as they do, they’re recommending their digital resources like e-books (some 391 million are available through libraries), audiobooks, education and tutoring sites for homework help, streaming music, and videos and movies to continue serving patrons virtually. Some are streaming storytimes and author visits, offering access to skill-sharing sites so you can learn something new at home, or providing vital access to telehealth resources. Check with your local library to see what’s available.

Going fee-free: Many libraries have waived material due dates, offered flexibility on pick-up and hold times, and extended the renewal period for expiring library cards.

Academic libraries: Some academic libraries are staying open even as universities close. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana and Ithaka S+R are conducting a survey of academic libraries’ response to COVID-19, and they’ve put together a website showing live results as surveys are submitted. Libraries can take the survey multiple times as their status changes.

Resources

The following lists provide information made available by official government entities, as well as a non-exhaustive list of resources compiled by some library associations.

Public health resources:

Library association resources:

For More Information

Questions or concerns? Do you have a resource you’d like to share? Please contact us at info@imls.gov or 202-653-IMLS (4657).