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From outdoor pop-ups to free WiFi hotspots to home delivery and even parking lot movies, libraries across Michigan have created hundreds of new programs and services to help their communities during this pandemic.

Whether library buildings have reopened or not, library staff said they are finding money in their budgets, seeking grants and creating partnerships to find ways to give people access to computers, printers and books, boost virtual programming and offer events and other perks. 

“This shutdown has been viewed as a disruption,” said Grosse Pointe Public Library Director Jessica Keyser. “But in disruption comes opportunity.”

Indeed. Digital readership from libraries alone is at an all time high, said David Burleigh, spokesman for OverDrive, which partners with libraries to provide cardholders online access to ebooks, audiobooks and magazines. Daily averages of digital checkouts are consistently 40% above pre-COVID periods (prior to March 13). Ebooks continue experiencing over 52% checkout growth, while audiobook checkouts have started increasing as the nation begins to reopen, he said.

At the Grosse Pointe Public Library, staff have offered more than 80 virtual programs from March through July, Keyser said, and saw record use among its digital collections. Its Bookflix read-aloud children’s book service is up 335%, for example, and its Mango Languages usage is up 382%. 

At the Royal Oak Public Library, director Emily Dumas said the staff immediately began to issue library cards online after its doors closed to the public on March 13 because of the coronavirus. An online form was created and uploaded that day, and the library has issued more than 500 cards since then. 

“My team and I recognized that not being able to issue library cards was going to be the biggest roadblock to online access for many patrons and needed to be solved as soon as possible,” Dumas said. “People were very grateful to still be able to use library services during this emergency period.”

Here’s a look at how the pandemic changed programming and services at 36 libraries across Michigan, according to their staffs.

1. Royal Oak Public Library: Purchased 35 Chromebooks available for checkout. “By allowing patrons to check out laptops and pair them with our circulating hotspots, it was a way to continue to offer computer access while the building is closed,” Dumas said.

2. Berkley Public Library: Added local delivery as an option to check out books. “Given the size of Berkley and the closeness of the community, we wanted to give people an additional option to access the library. We’ll drop the items they check out right to their front door if that’s convenient for them,” said director Matt Church. 

The Bloomfield Township Public Library. (Photo: Balthazar Korab)

3. Bloomfield Township Public Library: Reopened in mid-June for 30-minute visits to browse and check out materials, use computers and consult with librarians. To help students, it also is offering online tutoring resources like BrainFuse at no charge to library card holders.

4. Auburn Hills Public Library: Launched a new service that circulates iPads and WiFi hotspots to cardholders. “With many schools now using distance learning, we found this to be a much-needed service in our community,” said library director Lawrence Marble.The library also partnered with the Auburn Hills Boys & Girls Club: Matilda R Wilson Club and donated its old laptops, helping the organization make devices available for students in the Avondale school district.  

The Detroit Public Library’s Main location on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. (Photo: John Gallagher/Detroit Free Press)

5. Detroit Public Library: Took its mobile library to stops throughout the community during the summer, created online story times and offered virtual playdates. The Main Library and four neighborhood branches reopened for limited public service Sept. 28. One-hour computer sessions are available by appointment. 

6. Sterling Heights Public Library: Offered a dozen new WiFi hotspot devices for patrons to check out for free for seven days.

Some of the shelves full of books at the Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham.  (Photo: JOHN HEIDER |

7. Baldwin Public Library: Located in Birmingham, the library offered a new free book subscription service, Books Unboxed, for grades 4-12. Each box has a book that children can read and return, along with edible and non-edible goodies. 

8. Taylor Community Library: Launched outdoor pop-up library days throughout the month of October for patrons to browse a curated collection of new and popular materials in a socially-distanced setting outside the library. It also launched Reading Buddies, a weekly program that pairs teen volunteers with students in grades K-2 via Zoom to practice reading aloud. 

The sign outside the East Lansing Public Library reads “We miss you EL, stay safe!” on Monday, April 27, 2020, in Lansing. Signs of support have popped up in the greater Lansing area since the coronavirus outbreak. (Photo: Nick King/Lansing State Journal)

9. East Lansing Public Library: Now offers materials by mail as well as grab-bag crafts. It also added outdoor lockers for people to pick up materials on hold at any time. 

10. Lyon Township Public Library: Collaborated with Vibe Credit Union to create a Money Masters Week, which featured reading recommendations on important financial topics to help people boost financial literacy and overcome pandemic-related hardships. 

11. Ionia Community Library: Created the eCard, allowing anyone in the county with state or school IDs to obtain electronic access to materials.

More: Metro Detroit movie theaters grateful to reopen, but still face challenges

Movie-goers gather in the parking lot of the Fraser Public Library to watch “Mamma Mia!” on Sept. 26, 2020, in Fraser. (Photo: Anntaninna Biondo, For the Detroit Free Press)

12. Fraser Public Library: Librarians knew community members had lost jobs, so the library worked with Michigan Works! to have a Zoom-based resume writing workshop, and it plans to also offer an interview workshop. On Sept. 26, it hosted a drive-in viewing of “Mamma Mia!” in its parking lot.

The Plymouth District Library. (Photo: Julie Brown)

13. Plymouth District Library: Began offering virtual sessions for English Language Learners in conjunction with the Plymouth Canton Literacy Council. The library also provided parking lot space to the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce and Michigan Philharmonic orchestra for socially distanced meetings and concerts

14. Allen Park Public Library: Began offering free online resources including for free online tutoring, OverDrive and Hoopla for eBooks and movies and

15. Stair District Library: This library in Morenci created Facebook Live events, including “moonwatch parties” for the super moons with a moon trivia contest (prizes included rolls of toilet paper). “As the moon came up, my husband, head of the (fake) Morenci Howling Society, led everyone in howling at the moon. It was a silly event, but it really helped in making people feel connected,” said library director Colleen Leddy. The library also offered STEM-based Creativity Kits for students.

16. Ypsilanti District Library: Partnered with Ann Arbor Roller Derby League to do a read-aloud of the book ‘Roller Girl’ by Victoria Jamieson. It also had videos where one of the team members read a chapter and did a skating tip/safety demonstration. 

More: Michigan schools ordered to publicly disclose COVID-19 cases within 24 hours

17. Grosse Pointe Public Library: Offered a reference hotline where staff answered questions about where to get food assistance, help with research using databases as well as how to put books on hold, access tax forms and apply for unemployment benefits. The library also created a back-to-school guide for teachers, parents and grandparents with online resources, information about story and STEAM kits, as well as suggestions on how to cope with mental-health and stress-related issues.

Kristen Pytel of Macomb Township plays with her 18-month-old daughter Macey while her 5-year-old son, Harrison, back left, plays during block party activity time Dec. 17, 2015, at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library’s main branch in Clinton Township. (Photo: Christina Hall, Detroit Free Press)

18. Clinton-Macomb Public Library: Created Tech-to Go and STEM-to Go items to check out. These collections included WiFi hotspots, graphing calculators, tablets, coding robots and more. 

19. MacDonald Public Library: This library in New Baltimore went fine-free to help with the economic impact of coronavirus. “Given the financial ramifications of this pandemic for many Michigan families, our library made an effort to reduce any financial burden related to our services and materials,” said reference librarian Maria Gardella. 

20. Brandon Township Public Library: Created teen take-and-make kits. Some ready-to-make kits included yarn birds, Dungeon and Dragons miniatures, DIY Dream Catchers, and sweater pumpkins.The library also added a new database, Creativebug, which provides online access to art and craft classes for all ages. 

21. Highland Township Public Library: Created themed Nature Packs to help families explore. “We give the families tools such as binoculars and a bird guide but also include things like games in the packs. We check out telescopes, board games and other items. Family time is a good thing and we are glad library resources can help make it fun and educational,” said Brenda Dunseth of youth services 

22. Newaygo Area District Library: Created Story Circle, a virtual daily reading program for elementary age children to read through popular chapter books with staff. In June, it took its summer reading program virtual with the app READSquared, allowing patrons to participate and win prizes, virtually. More than 200 people participated. 

23. Dearborn Heights Libraries: Shifted its summer reading programs to an all-online program, which included free delivery of craft supplies to participants, including those who live outside the city’s boundaries. For the youth summer reading program, 743 children participated. Registration for fall activity boxes has more than 900 signed up. 

24. Peter White Public Library (Marquette): Created and gave away thousands of to-go kits this summer that families could pick up via drive-thru, including a family game-night kit, story-time kits and summer reading themed kits with fairy gardens, mermaid treats and make your own slime. “We want to offer the same level of high access we always have at the library. It’s what we do. Our mission hasn’t changed. So we’ll keep thinking of ways to offer that, be it virtual or socially distanced,” said Jenifer Kilpela, communications coordinator for the library.

A number of new books at the Howell Carnegie District Library, shown Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, make for popular reads. (Photo: Gillis Benedict/Livingston Daily)

25. Howell Carnegie District Library: Hosted an outdoor, socially-distanced event in September called Health Happens @ Your Library! The event offered beginner yoga classes in 6-foot round hoops for safe distancing, a Take & Create project for various ages and a flu shot clinic with its local Walgreens. 

26. Benton Harbor Public Library: Library staff attended the local farmer’s market, where librarians helped people fill out the Census, sign up for library cards, handed out crafts to take home and promoted its fitness initiative. The library also held weekly walks through downtown Benton Harbor and purchased an outdoor movie license to allow it to show movies outside.

27. Eastpointe Memorial Library: To help patrons check out books that support school curricula, patrons have the option to call the library and talk to a youth services librarian who will pull together material for them.

28. Orion Township Public Library: The library’s notaries on staff offered virtual notary appointments and its IT staffer offered virtual tech help. 

The Children’s section of the Capital Area District Library pictured on Thursday, March 9, 2017 in Lansing.  (Photo: Julia Nagy/Lansing State Journal)

29. Capital Area District Libraries (Lansing): Offered a series of online workshops on how to build an e-commerce site with tips for making or improving a website, an introduction to Shopify as well as Google marketing tools and analytics. The library also created the “Read Woke Online Reading Challenge,” encouraging the community to read diverse books with titles selected by its staff on a wide variety of cultures, places and experiences.

30. Portage Lake District Library: Both the library in Houghton and the Hancock School Public Library are offering TumbleBookLibrary, a virtual collection of animated talking picture books, read-alongs, eBooks, quizzes, lesson plans and educational games. 

31. Romeo District Library: Kezar branch manager Stacie Guzzo sent handwritten notes to dozens of her regular patrons to let them know the library was still there for them even though its services are limited or changed. The district library also has an outreach van to deliver items to people’s front porches.

More: Back to school puts financial strain on Michigan’s most vulnerable families

32. Roseville Public Library: Shared information online about local food banks and other sources of aid readily available. It also offered its computers for up to 2 hours per day for anyone that wanted to use them for Internet access. The library’s WiFi signal also can be accessed from its parking lot at any time.  

33. Bullard Sanford Memorial Library: The library in Vassar has gone completely fine free: Free faxes, DVD rentals and no fines on materials. 

34. Public Libraries of Saginaw: Created school supply bags full of notebooks, markers and other items to give to K-8 students with library cards in September. 

Librarian Sandhya Subnedar of Troy reads to children during storytime at the Troy Public Library in Troy, Tuesday, Mar.9, 2010. (Photo: SUSAN TUSA, Detroit Free Press)

35. Troy Public Library: Offered virtual events, such as “Between the Lines with Author Michael Zadoorian,” a conversation with library director Cathy Russ and author and Detroit native Zadoorian about his novel ‘Beautiful Music.’ The library also offered a workshop for teens seeking their first jobs, including tips for online interviews. 

36. Rawson Memorial District Library (Cass City): Shifted its old book club to Facebook and posts questions for members to react to. The library has 42 people signed up.

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