Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire                                 A message in the windows of the Downtown Public Library seen Tuesday encourages Juneauites to stay home during the coronavirus crisis. While at home, more patrons than usual are using Juneau Public Libraries’ e-services.

Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire A message in the windows of the Downtown Public Library seen Tuesday encourages Juneauites to stay home during the coronavirus crisis. While at home, more patrons than usual are using Juneau Public Libraries’ e-services.

While stuck at home, Juneauites are turning to local libraries

E-book, streaming and genealogy services more widely used during pandemic

While their doors are closed, Juneau Public Libraries continue to offer services — some are even getting more use than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the libraries have been physically shuttered for almost a month, they continue to register new cards and offer online services, which are seeing an uptick in usage while Juneauites are hunkered down.

[City urges hunkering down amid community spread of virus]

“Last month Kanopy, the movie streaming database, usage increased by two-thirds,” said Juneau Public Libraries grants and marketing coordinator Kate Enge in an email. “The other big jump was the library version of Ancestry.com, which jumped up six times its normal usage.”

The Kanopy streaming service uses credits, and library patrons get eight each month, Enge said. However, once libraries began closing, the company made part of the collection credit-free and made all of their kid’s collection credit-free.

“People are probably interested in Kanopy and Hoopla,” Enge said. “Both services use credits, but both have a wide range of credit-free offerings this month. I mentioned Kanopy was for movies, and Hoopla has e-books, comics, TV series, movies and music.”

Enge said patrons can also use the OverDrive application to borrow e-books and audio books from the Alaska Digital Library. The Alaska OverDrive follows a more traditional library model. There are no credits, and it allows patrons to borrow a digital copy of an item included in the collection or place a hold if all copies of a desired e-book are already checked out.

The app allows for e-books to be borrowed in a format that works with Amazon Kindle software, so they can be read on the popular e-readers or any other device that has the Kindle application installed. The software is free for computers — both Mac and PC — and smartphones.

This screen shot shows the Alaska Digital Library’s landing page on the OverDrive application. The service allows patrons to borrow and reserve digital materials. (Screen shot | Alaska Digital Library)

This screen shot shows the Alaska Digital Library’s landing page on the OverDrive application. The service allows patrons to borrow and reserve digital materials. (Screen shot | Alaska Digital Library)

While a detailed breakdown in the surge of e-book checkouts was not available —the libraries’ system tracks by quarter rather than week or month — the three-month period ending in March showed a noticeable 9% increase in the number of borrowed e-books.

“Normally, usage for Alaska Digital Library increases around 3% over a three month period — our e-book usage is always increasing,” Enge said. “I’m betting there will be more of a jump this month with everyone hunkered down and the library closed to the public.”

Also, between March 16 and March 31, the library registered 26 people for library cards over the phone. Requirements for registering for a library card have been relaxed, Enge said, so residents can call to get a library card number.

“Unfortunately, we don’t keep track of how many cards we register normally in a week, but 26 is a decent number,” Enge said.

There’s also been an expansion in Live Homework Help Hours offered through the Statewide Library Electronic Doorway, which offers live tutors to help students with math and English.

[Planet Alaska: We’re in this together]

Enge said hours are now 8-2 a.m. Monday through Friday and noon-2 a.m. on weekends.

“With Live Homework Help you don’t need a library card, but you do have to be in Alaska to use it,” she said.

Enge said library workers are still answering phones seven days a week and encouraged people to call 586-5249 with questions, and a full list of resources could be found at juneau.org/library/resources.

She also had good news for anyone who may be holding on to something checked out in pre-pandemic days.

“Our items don’t need to be returned while we’re closed, and we aren’t going to charge fines,” Enge said.

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt

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