Montgomery County Libraries Are Zooming Right Along

Terri Carr

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Of all the inconveniences brought on by the Coronavirus, one of the things I miss the most is being able to visit the library. I know I’m showing my nerd streak, but that’s the truth.

I’m not into clubs or bars and rarely go to a movie. But the library? Once every week or so, typically. Lest you think I’m a voracious reader, that’s not usually the case these days. But I will always check out new non-fiction, a fun DVD perhaps, recent or otherwise. I also love audiobooks, especially in the car. I’ve devoured quite a few good books while driving!

Like many communities around the country, Montgomery County, MD libraries are doing a fantastic job of coordinating online reservations through their Holds To Go! system and arranging contactless pickup by the public.

But I still miss being able to stroll in and look around. There’s so much to learn and just to enjoy. And it’s all free!

So every once in a while I’ll take a look at my local library’s website to see if there might be a tentative re-opening date on the horizon. Perhaps there will be library access but socially distanced, like retail stores are doing. But as of today, there is no hint that in-person services are expected to resume in the next few months.

Recently I looked a little more closely at exactly what services are available and I was astonished to see that county libraries are coordinating a busy schedule of activities online. It makes perfect sense, of course. If businesses and families are gathering online, why not library patrons?

What’s fascinating about this is that people can enjoy a huge variety of activities without going anywhere! Typically, I might go to 1 or 2 nearby libraries for a talk, but now that everything is on Zoom, it’s equally easy to go to my local branch as it is to a branch 15 miles away.

An interesting aside to all the expected changes due to Covid-19 is that all library fines have been cancelled, apparently never to return!

Here are some of the unexpected offerings available from Montgomery County libraries:

- free outdoor wifi at 10 branch libraries - if people can eat outside, they can use a laptop outside

- 250 hotspots are available to borrow (among all Montgomery County Branches) - library cardholders aged 14 and older can borrow a hotspot for 2 weeks at a time, but the borrowing period cannot be extended

- download free movies, television and video from the library website (register for this free tutorial on Tuesday, February 16th for more information)

Now for a glimpse of the surprising breadth of activities happening online:

Throughout the month of February, county libraries are observing Black History Month with at least 9 events, including a film, talks, trivia contests and discussions.

Social justice author Michelle Hall will talk about her book 1968 Riots From the Eyes of an Eight Year Old Child in a virtual talk on Tuesday, February 16th from 5 - 6 pm.

There are many ongoing book discussion groups, including a Harry Potter group. Participants can borrow the respective book of the month up to 4 weeks before the discussion meeting.

In addition to all the literary themed events there are tons of less traditional virtual activities scheduled in February and beyond. Consider some of these options to liven up your socially distanced existence:

Trivia Night

Bilingual Story Time

Birdwatching

Yoga

Knitting and Crocheting

Watercolor Painting Basics

Chinese for Beginners

English, Spanish & French Conversation clubs

Sing A Longs

Dance Party

Irish Step Dance class (March 12)

The above list is just a sample of the offerings available from Montgomery County libraries. Check this page for a complete schedule of virtual events.

Take a closer look at your local library and maybe ones in other cities as well.

I’ve always wanted to visit the New York Public Library and immerse myself in its staggering bounty of inspiration and information. Perhaps now I will finally visit, without leaving my home, of course!

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