Libraries across the state are getting closer to opening their doors to eager readers. Yours might even be open right now, and you don’t even know it. The library in our small town is one of the services that our family has missed most, and we are counting the days until it opens this month. If you have missed wandering the stacks of your local library, take time to find out the programs and services your library offers. You might be surprised at how much they have, even if they cannot fully open yet.

The best place to start is your library’s website. This will have the most up-to-date information on their hours and plans for reopening. Those details might include limited hours and appointments to browse the books. Our library plans to limit patrons to thirty minutes of browsing and will also limit how many can enter at one time. If your child enjoyed playing in the children’s section before, be aware that that section may be closed when you return. Public computers may also be restricted. 

If your library is still waiting to reopen, they will have other lending options. Using the library’s online catalog, you may be able to reserve books or movies and pick them up outside the library. Book drops are often in the same location when you need to return items. Some libraries may also have children’s craft kits or activities that you can pick up. Check your library’s website to see what they are currently offering. 

Another lending option is borrowing an ebook, audiobook, or movie through a library-affiliated app. This service has been a lifesaver for our family over the last year. We have easily borrowed over a hundred books and audiobooks using the Libby app. I have loved having a new book waiting on my phone when I need a mental break, and our kids listen to audiobooks every evening at bedtime. Some Oregon libraries also offer access to the streaming movie app, Kanopy, a free catalog of over 30,000 movies covering various topics and genres. You can stream Kanopy on your TV through a Roku, Apple TV, or other digital media player.

Library websites will also have information on classes like family storytime, book clubs, and adult enrichment groups. While these activities might be the last services to return in person, most of these classes are now offered online, and librarians are finding creative ways to keep these video classes fun and engaging, especially for children. Our niece recently watched an OMSI presentation on reptiles through her library. We recently signed up for a video tour of the University of Oregon’s Natural and Cultural Museum through ours. There is even a science experiment kit we can pick up to use with the video. Classes for older children and adults are available, with options like poetry contests, reading and writing groups, and job resources.

While it has been hard to see an empty library for the past year, librarians have continued to reach families behind those closed doors, finding new ways to stay connected and learn. Libraries across Oregon do not just loan books but are the centers of our towns and neighborhoods, providing services and programs for the entire family. Take time to see what your local library has to offer for you and your kids. 

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