Chesterton Tribune



Porter County and Westchester libraries expand digital offerings

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Staff at the Porter County Public Library system (PCPLS) and the Westchester Public Library (WPL) have ramped up digital services in response to COVID-19.

Though libraries are closed, thousands of digital offerings remain, and staff are creating new original online content and looking for creative ways to help patrons while Indiana is under a shelter-in-place order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Curbside pick-up of materials is no longer available at PCPLS out of concern for patrons and staff, but a dramatic increase in digital resources has replaced it.

“We are adding digital items fast and furious,” PCPLS Director Jesse Butz said. “We have added nearly a million digital titles --well more than doubling our digital offerings in less than one month. Plus, we continue to add new content every week, focusing on options that can assist our community in this time of need.”

Meanwhile, WPL is also expanding online resources. “With patrons staying safe at home, we’ve seen an increase of 33% in the use of digital materials, and I anticipate that number to grow,” WPL Director Lisa Stamm said. “Staff are increasing the offerings in our digital collections so that patrons have more to choose from.”

PCPLS continues to offer virtual programs for youth, teens, and adults, including: three virtual storytimes a week, online versions of Summer Reading and 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten through BeanStack, weekly nail art and pop culture talks for teens, and adult craft programs such as bookmark making and rock painting. Soon to come are virtual book clubs, discussion groups, and concerts for adults.

“We’re excited for our community to discover these new opportunities, free with a library card through their very own Porter County Public Library System. We hope to see you all soon Đ live on,” Butz said.

Stamm said WPL staff have been hard at work on digital versions of WPL storytimes and popular programs for kids such as Toddler Time, Baby Talk, and Stories and Kicks for 4,5, and 6. These videos are available 24/7 on the WPL Facebook page and YouTube channel.

“They are doing a remarkable job, and I am proud of how they’re turning their imaginations into videos. It takes time and patience to carefully plan, film, and edit a video, and WPL staff are up to the task,” Stamm said.

WPL’s new Young Adult Librarian Sionna Hartigan has also started an Instagram account for WPL’s teen and tween patrons and is creating “Teen Book Tuesday” video book reviews.

Don’t have a card? WPL cardholders can get a PCPLS card, or vice versa, per a reciprocal borrowing agreement. The PCPLS has added an online option enabling residents without a library card to receive a temporary virtual card granting immediate access. WPL also continues issuing new cards and answering patron questions via voicemail or the “Ask a Librarian” feature at


A list highlighting digital library resources:

--Free WiFi: Both libraries have left their free WiFi on for patrons to access from the comfort of their cars in library parking lots.

--Hoopla: available from both PCPLS and WPL, a free streaming service for audiobooks, music, TV shows, video and ebooks on smart devices.

There is usually a limit on monthly borrows through Hoopla, but they have created a “Bonus Borrows” collection with more than 1,000 titles due to COVID-19, so borrowing those titles will not count toward patrons’ borrowing limits through April 30.

--RBDigital: available from both PCPLS and WPL, a digital service that provides access to eMagazines and audiobooks.

Butz said in a release that RBDigital has been available at PCPLS for years, but access has been dramatically expanded from 100 eMagazine titles to 3,500. For audiobooks, 6,000 adult titles and 2,000 child and young adult titles have been added.

--Kanopy: available through PCPLS, a free service that includes movies, documentaries, foreign films, classic cinema, independent films and educational videos available on smart devices.

More streaming opportunities from PCPLS include Acorn TV, IndieFlix, and Pongalo Spanish TV for movies, television, and documentaries and Great Courses and Learn It Live for adult learning experiences on a variety of topics.

--Creative Bug: a new option at PCPLS, access to thousands of art and craft classes including videos, templates, and recipes.

--ArtistWorks: available through PCPLS, patrons can learn music from master musicians using video lessons at their own pace.

Other educational resources from PCPLS include Method Test Prep for the SAT and ACT, Hoonuit Device Software Training for learning software applications, and Universal Class, which provides access to more than 500 general learning or continuing education courses in more than 30 areas.

Access to academic databases, Rosetta Stone language learning, consumer reports, newspaper archives, standardized test prep, and more is available through WPL’s Virtual Library via INSPIRE, the Indiana State Library’s collection of digital resources.

Coming Soon

The PCPLS is acquiring a “Zoom Room” that will be available for patrons to check out. The Zoom Room is a digital meeting room that will be open for bookings in two-hour time slots during normal operating hours through the PCPLS regular booking system. Patrons will be able to host up to 300 people in the PCPLS Zoom Room.

PCPLS will also start hosting virtual programs that will accommodate up to 100 attendees at a time through Zoom.

WPL may start live-streaming programs in addition to producing prerecorded programs on YouTube.

Both libraries hope to implement curbside pickup, using appropriate social distancing measures, once it is safe to do so.



Posted 4/20/2020




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