COVID-19 may have closed the Mt. Lebanon Public Library building temporarily, but the virtual library is open.
One of the township’s most-used resources has been transitioning to serve the community through available technology.
“We had just a few days, really, to put together kind of a work model that we could use remotely,” Sharon Bruni, associate director for public services, said. “We decided that we would have it, as best we could, to replicate what we do in our physical library.”
The focus is on programming, reference and collections, with Mt. Lebanon Public Library having a significant head start with regard to the latter. Available are electronic versions of books, audio books and magazines, along with streaming capabilities for music and movies.
Since the library’s closure, the staff has augmented the online collection by increasing viewing credits for the film-streaming service Kanopy and adding Acorn TV, which offers the likes of mysteries, dramas, comedies and documentaries, all commercial-free. Both are available only to Mt. Lebanon cardholders.
The library also is in the process of implementing Creativebug, a platform that offers online video arts and crafts workshops and techniques.
“We’re also going to be planning some virtual programs around the content in Creativebug,” Bruni said.
Another purchase by the library is Udemy, an online learning and teaching marketplace with more than 100,000 courses.
“That one focuses on technology training and business skills,” Bruni said. “For example, if you really wanted to up your Microsoft Excel game, let’s say, you could take a whole range of classes on pivot tables or something like that.”
Such a skill may be of particular use, as a pivot table allows you to extract the significance from a large, detailed data set, and in turn, you could impress clients or supervisors.
“We’re also thinking of interesting ways to engage the public to maybe utilize our reference services in ways that they hadn’t in the past, more about readers’ advisory,” Bruni said. “It’s checking in with and seeing how we’re doing.
“Our main objective in this is, the library has always been a ‘third place,’” she continued, referencing the notion of home as the “first place” and work as “second” – “and we’ve lost that in a physical sense. But we’re trying to create that in a virtual way.”
Presenting virtual programming has been the biggest challenge for a library that offers as much as Mt. Lebanon. Efforts include purchasing Zoom Business and Vimeo software to allow for participatory streaming of live events among members of groups, and staff members are creating content for online storytimes “so that kids don’t miss their favorite children’s librarians,” Bruni said.
She credits associate director Jeremy White for handling many of the “virtual library” technical considerations.
“Behind the scenes we’ve had to scramble to convert our great in-person services to an online, virtual service model that we can be proud of and that our patrons will appreciate,” he said. “This included getting staff set up with laptops to take home, virtual phone services, and getting the staff together to plan and collaborate using online meeting software.”
For more information, visit MtLebanonLibrary.org/AtHome.