by Mary Wilson
While the doors to Mid-Continent Public Library (MCPL) branches are closed, access to information and books is still open through the library’s virtual branch at mymcpl.org. Due to continued public health concerns brought forth by COVID-19, the branches of MCPL will remain closed until further notice while the counties they serve remain under stay-home orders.
With a firm reopening date yet to be established, due dates for all currently checked-out items have been extended to May 15. All holds have also been extended until the branches are open again, and fines will not accrue during this time. Book drops at branch locations are closed, and the library asks that materials be kept by the borrowers until reopening.
MCPL is working to find creative ways of virtually serving customers while the physical locations are closed. Online, MCPL offers resources that cover everything from entertainment - including eBooks, eAudiobooks, streaming movies and music, and eMagazines - to career help, health and wellness resources, tutoring and schoolwork help.
“Our team is working to obtain more copies of digital items to help with increased demand during the closure,” said MCPL Community Relations Specialist Emily Brown. “We’ve started to produce virtual versions of our programs, too. So far, we’ve done virtual story times and some virtual business classes (led by our Square One Small Business Services group) on the library’s social media pages.”
Square One is continuing one-on-one consultations with local entrepreneurs as well. The library has also offered some virtual book chats on the MCPL Readers’ Lounge Facebook page. Soon, visitors to the virtual branch can also see virtual tech programs, covering a variety of topics like how to use Excel.
“For anyone who is a genealogist, this is exciting news: Ancestry has granted public libraries remote access to Ancestry Library Edition through April,” said Brown. “So, that means anyone who has an MCPL card can now use Ancestry Library Edition at home. Previously, it had to be used on one of our actual branches.”
With all of the virtual resources and entertainment, the library encourages users to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org through email for assistance with those digital questions. While MCPL doesn’t have any sort of service that disseminates devices for people to use, they may contact the library for help using devices they already have, including help with things like borrowing an eBook.
“We know that libraries are vital hubs in our communities, so our default is to assume that we should be open to serve, especially in difficult times,” said Brown. “But we also value the well-being of our customers and staff above all else. All of the information we have received from the public health community suggests that well-being is best served by a period of social distancing. The only way we can ensure that in our libraries is by closing our facilities.”
Knowing that there is no substitute to visiting a local library, MCPL remains committed to getting their buildings reopened as soon as it is safe to do so. Follow the library on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily suggestions and recommendations on ways to take advantage of the many online resources and materials that MCPL and its partners provide.