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Long Island libraries switch to virtual programming; see an uptick in card registrations

The Freeport Library has moved its programming online

The Freeport Library has moved its programming online and hosts Blue Table Talks. Credit: Freeport Library

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While their physical doors are temporarily closed, Long Island libraries are “virtually” open — offering free access to everything from library card registrations that normally are done only in person to programs on how to make lip gloss.

And there’s been a recent uptick in registrations, library authorities say, as a variety of people find themselves in need of library help during this “uncertain” time.

Christa Lucarelli, assistant director of the Farmingdale Public Library, says that by Wednesday in Nassau County alone there had been 2,000 requests made for digital cards since the coronavirus pandemic hit. “There has also been an increase in visits to our website and Facebook page.” She adds, "With an increasing amount of people practicing social distancing, the need for resources has increased.”

Suffolk Cooperative Library System director, Kevin Verbesey, adds in a telephone interview Wednesday that there’s been a 30% increase in e-books and other e-resources available through the county’s library websites since the virus closed the buildings. He says online card registrations have numbered about 150 a day for the past two weeks. “People are now settled in for the long haul with some of this, so there’s a long list of virtual programs and workshops taking place and in the next week or so things are really going to take off.”

Librarians say that increased needs for libraries come from people such as parents looking for resources to help educate their children now that schools have been shuttered, and those looking to entertain their children, teachers looking for free resources, and people trying to keep occupied in a positive way by getting lost in a book or learning how to do something new.

“We want to let the community know we’re still here for them and still trying to help them out,” says Lucarelli. She says her library and others are hubs in their local communities for socializing, recreation and educational activities and she wants it to remain that way. “We’re making sure we’re making available a variety of resources.”

Lucarelli says that in addition to creating a new YouTube channel and updating its Pinterest boards with “cheerful and uplifting” quotes for this time, there are cooking classes, painting and drawing instruction among the virtual offerings for children, links to museums and house tours, garden resources, exercise classes, college prep courses, newspaper articles, information on the coronavirus, and restaurants that are delivering, in addition to access to books, magazines, the latest census information and more.

A chat feature on the library’s web page farmingdalelibrary.org is also new and is staffed by its librarians, who are available to answer questions during regular hours of operation – Monday through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.,  Fridays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Freeport Library Director Kenneth Bellafiore says programming is his library’s strong suit and being able to keep that going virtually now is very important.

“One of the strongest things we do is programming, and people need access to the library during this time,” Bellafiore says. “People need to have access to the library, so they know that they’re not alone out there and we’re all going through this together.” He adds that with programs it offers through Zoom, on topics such as Freeport history, story time and how to use Ancestry.com, people get to see other people and it’s “a way to strengthen people.”

Bellafiore says a sense of normalcy is also provided by people getting to see and interact with library staff. Freeport’s library offerings are available at freeportlibrary.info.

There’s even library staff to share your morning coffee with to help give a pleasant and relaxed start to your day, courtesy of one of the events the Long Beach Public Library features at longbeachlibrary.org. Others so far have included a parent chat, a meditation class, and movie discussion.

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