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South Jersey libraries expand offerings to accommodate customers staying home
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South Jersey libraries expand offerings to accommodate customers staying home


GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Joanne Garofolo, who previously lived in Nebraska, moved here in June 2018 and has used the township’s public library to familiarize herself with her new home.

Garofolo became a member of the Atlantic County Library system in July 2018 and joined the monthly evening book club that fall.

With libraries closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Garofolo has used the county library website to download a book and also participated in a virtual meeting of the book club earlier this month.

Garofolo mostly listened, but she was happy that the attempt was made to keep the book club going even if it had to be virtual.

“For me, I was just getting back into reading again,” said Garofolo, 52. “Being able to meet with this group and hear what they read gave me the motivation and interest to learn about new publications and old publications. Things that would intrigue me. ... I know it (reading) is a way to help your mind de-stress and to give you another outlet for something to enjoy.”

Similar to other South Jersey systems and branches, the Atlantic County Library System decided to expand their online offerings, so that residents would have more choices as they obeyed the governor’s stay-at-home executive order, and the library buildings remained closed to the public.

The Atlantic County Library System has two eCollections: an expanded Overdrive with eBooks and eAudiobooks; and Axis 360, where 4,000 books for kindergarteners through 12th-graders will be available until June 30, said Regina Bell, the library system director.

“Branch librarians are doing storytime through Facebook,” Bell said.

On April 20, Jaimie Vigue, the Ventnor branch manager and a librarian, read, “I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean” by Kevin Sherry.

The Atlantic County Library System also has a new feature on Facebook that it started on April 13 called “UnCovered,” where staff members share reading recommendations and reviews.

The Atlantic City Free Public Library, which is not a part of the county system, is providing what several other branches and systems are also offering.

This month, the Atlantic City library started offering Hoopla, a digital streaming service of more than 700,000 titles. With a valid library card, members can stream and download audiobooks, comics, eBooks, movies, music and television shows.

“Even while our physical locations are closed, we’re committed to providing resources and programs to meet the educational, recreational and informational needs of the Atlantic City community,” said library Director Robert Rynkiewicz in a statement.

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The Atlantic City library is also offering the Overdrive service, so people can download audiobooks and ebooks.

The Atlantic City library created an online library card renewal for people whose cards have expired, so that way they can use their card for Hoopla, Overdrive and other services.

Nearly all of the library’s online resources are available to its members, including — a service that allows students to get live, one-on-one homework help from an online tutor.

The Cape May County Library has made new library cards entirely online, offers Hoopla and also has been recording special storytimes.

But, the library also has its own different offerings such as Libby for more digital eBooks, eAudiobooks, movies and music and a doubling in the number of digital magazines that have been made available through the library’s Flipster subscription.

While its patrons are staying at home, the Cape May County Library has been working hard to make sure its communities are still connected to great resources and even some new digital programming, said Andrea Orsini, the library director.

“Staff are creating videos for reading recommendations, yoga classes, baking demonstrations, art lessons and guitar lessons on our YouTube and Facebook pages. We’ve also started an online book club that participants can attend and participate in via a chat group. Moving forward, we will continue to increase our virtual program offerings,” Orsini said.

The Cumberland County Library offers a different system for elearning for all ages and all levels called Brainfuse, which provides for live, online tutoring from 2 to 11 p.m. daily, said Susanne Sacchetti, the library director.

“My staff and I are doing email outreach and making phone calls to find out what we can do to further assistance them,” said Sacchetti about library members.

The Cumberland County Library is also offering a temporary limited access or virtual library card, Sacchetti said.

“We lifted a lot of barriers. Residents should email for access to a virtual (library) card,” said Sacchetti, who added the email address is “My staff are checking it every day.”

The Ocean County Library is temporarily closed also, but the library system has enhanced its digital services through its website and social platforms, said Susan Quinn, the director.

Shore To View, the library’s expanding video collection, includes children’s songs and activities, step-by-step crafting lessons, book suggestions and business tips.

The library’s digital Concierge Service lets children, teens and adults pinpoint their favorite genres and titles of eBooks and audiobooks, receive recommendations and offer feedback about books and series.

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