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University of Michigan School of Information


UMSI alumni lead public library digitization efforts amid COVID-19 pandemic

Wednesday, 04/15/2020

UMSI alumni across the nation are leading efforts to maximize access to public library resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With quarantined library patrons seeking everything from boredom busters to reference help, librarians rose to the challenge as transitions to online operations took place nationwide in March 2020. 

Alumni in library leadership roles provided UMSI with updates on how their staff are adapting programming and resources to support patrons. They also described new initiatives they’ve rolled out to serve their communities in crisis. 

Here’s a look at some of the innovative ways librarians are using information — with technology — to build a better world when they’re needed most. 

From Josie Parker (MILS ‘96), Director of the Ann Arbor District Library:  

  • AADL launched AADL TV, a YouTube channel featuring AADL’s live streams, including past streams for those who are not able to watch live. Features include storytimes, arts and crafts, trivia and more. 
  • AADL created an online version of its highly popular Summer Game program (this year entitled Bummer Game, as a nod to life during the pandemic). Bummer Game is a daily scavenger hunt across the web. Players earn badges, which are like puzzles and quests to be solved online through the web and the AADL catalog. These badges translate into points that can later be used to redeem a variety of library merch.
  • From noon to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, the AADL reference desk is available by phone to assist community members with queries and provide a resource to those who may not have reliable access to the internet. 
  • Three 3D printers from AADL’s makerspace, Secret Lab, have been used by staff to produce face shields for local hospitals.
  • AADL offers an extensive array of audio books, e-books, podcasts and magazines available for immediate downloading.

From Larry Neal (MSI ‘01), Director of the Clinton-Macomb Public Library

  • CMPL launched a March Madness reading challenge online.
  • CMPL created Virtual CMPL, a virtual library site, to serve the community with an extensive collection of resources to support lifelong learning, advance student success, help job-seekers, inspire creativity and more.
  • Virtual CMPL offers over 150,000 audiobooks, books, comics, magazines, movies and music in digital format, with new titles being added weekly by our librarians.
  • CMPL is offering a variety of virtual programs such as book discussions, writing groups, live storytimes and trivia. Programs are tailored for adults, children and all ages.
  • RB Digital, CMPL’s online magazine service, offers over 140 magazines for download, including back issues. 
  • CMPL offers personalized reading recommendations available here.

From John Szabo (MILS ‘92), City Librarian of the Los Angeles Public Library

  • LAPL is working with the city’s Department of Aging and has telephoned nearly 300 homebound elderly Angelenos who have emergency alert pendants. The librarians offer friendly check-ins, remind them to monitor their pendants every month, ask about the need for assistance, and direct them to the LAPL website for resources.
  • Librarians throughout the LAPL system are recording virtual storytimes from home and posting them on the library’s social media channels so families can still enjoy these library favorites.
  • LAPL is offering daily online activities including book clubs, “ask a librarian” sessions and guided meditation.
  • LAPL librarians are 3D printing face shields for use by local hospitals. Librarians expect to manufacture approximately 150 face shields a week and have received additional 3D printers from other library systems to increase production.
  • LAPL offers a rich and broad array of media resources online, including books, audiobooks, music, movies, magazines, newspapers and more.
  • Los Angeles residents who don’t have a library card can get an e-card that gives them immediate, unlimited and free access to online resources by visiting

From Eva Davis (MSI ‘98), Director of the Canton Public Library

  • CPL is redirecting resources allocated to physical media to expand online offerings and e-services.
  • Since the building closure, CPL has issued more than 70 online library cards and facilitated close to 150 membership renewals virtually.
  • CPL library staff have increased social media engagement and online storytime programs.

- UMSI News Service