Never let it be said you can’t do anything fun for free. A perfect example is Edmonton Public Library (EPL), which offers free library cards to Edmontonians. With a library card, patrons can borrow physical materials and access EPL’s online services.
All EPL locations were closed on Dec. 13, 2020, as part of the mandatory province-wide health measure issued on Dec. 8. “EPL locations are temporarily closed for in-branch visits until further notice to help limit the spread of COVID-19,” says Sharon Day, director of branch services and collections. Day adds that the health and safety of their staff and customers remain their top priority.
“Although our branches are closed, customers are still able to borrow physical materials safely with our library takeout service,” says Day, and explains that people can safely pick up their holds using the library’s contactless pickup service at the customer’s preferred location. To do this, go online to place items on hold. Once the item is available, head to the takeout location and pick up the item.
The library also has thousands of e-books and audiobooks in their digital collections available to patrons. Their extensive list of online resources include e-magazines, e-newspapers, movies, television shows, music, access to online classes, and an EPL YouTube channel with virtual story times, sing-alongs, classes, and puppet shows.
“EPL has been building our digital collection and resources for over a decade. The pandemic provided us with an opportunity to expand our online services and programming to connect with our customers in a safe way,” explains Day. “In addition to our vast collection of online resources, we also introduced our new library takeout service, the personal picks pack, and expanded our EPL on YouTube video library.”
During the pandemic, EPL responded quickly to the needs of their customers. “We shifted our focus to online delivery of our resources, programs, and events and our customers have been very receptive,” Day explains. In 2020, EPL saw a 34 per cent increase in their e-content usage. “The two biggest months for OverDrive [one of their digital content distributors] lending coincided with branch closures due to health restrictions; April saw a 58 per cent increase over the same month in 2019, while December saw a 44 per cent increase over the same month a year prior.” On top of that, the EPL from Home videos were watched over one million times in 2020. “There was also a substantial increase in new and active users on our e-content with over 5 million digital materials borrowed.”
In addition to promoting their online services, EPL is practicing proper health protocols to help prevent further spread of the virus, while still offering free services to all library members.