Dowagiac District Library promotes online services

DOWAGAIC — From book club meetings hosted via Zoom to patrons being able to apply for library cards online, the Dowagiac District Library is getting creative with handling closing its doors due to COVID-19.

On March 16, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an order closing down areas where people congregate, including libraries. Since then, Dowagiac District Library Director Matt Weston has spent the closure time trying to promote the libraries’ online services.

“I didn’t know how long we would be shut down for, so my first thought was what services do we currently have that you can let people know about that they maybe aren’t using,” Weston said.

One of the first services Weston began promoting was an online tutoring service, called Tutor.com, which patrons can access with their library cards.

“As soon as I heard the Dowagiac Union School System was handing out packets to students they had to work to complete, if students needed help with that work, they could use their library cards to contact a real tutor in their subject area,” Weston said.

With the library physically unable to check out books, Weston said patrons can still download more than 18,000 eBooks and audiobooks, which work with IOS devices, Kindles, Nooks and other devices. Currently, the library is working on expanding its current collection.

The library also created a Zoom account to continue its monthly book discussion club, which met on the first Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Amtrak Station.

“We have usually four or five people who usually show up,” Weston said of the book club. “They all got online for the Zoom meeting. It seems fairly easy for people to do it. Even though its only four or five people, that’s 100 percent attendance.”

Melissa Philips, the youth service coordinator at the Dowagiac District Library, has also began offering virtual story time through Zoom meetings at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesdays. Weston said normally the story times average 15 to 20 attendees.

With the library doors closed, people interested in getting a library card and online access to services can fill out a form online. The library staff will work to get patrons a card number.

Since the online library card process launching more than a week ago, Weston said about 50 people have applied for cards and received card numbers.

With the library undergoing renovations, Weston said a faster Wi-Fi connection has been established at the library and can be accessed outside the library’s front doors by anyone whose internet goes down or needs quick access.

Also during the pandemic, the library is not charging fines while its doors are closed. If a patron has an overdue fine from before the pandemic, Weston said it can be cleared out.

“We are really trying to make sure people can access these things and not get stopped by something minor like that,” he said.

Weston is hoping after the COVID-19 pandemic that online services will still remain popular and widely used among patrons.

“We have people out in Silver Creek and parts of Keeler [Township] that are fairly far from town and may not come into town very often, and we want to beef up those services so they can use them as well even in the best of times,” Weston said.

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