Record Use of Morgantown’s Digital Library During Quarantine

Since the stay-at-home order, use of the Morgantown Public Library System’s digital library is seeing all-time high numbers. People continue to discover the library’s resources from at-home genealogical databases to online music lessons, all of which can be accessed using WIFI on a computer, smart phone, or eReader. 

“Within hours of announcing temporary library cards, we received an overwhelming response from the community,” says Corina Chang, Manager of Marketing. “It was immediately clear that there was a real need for our resources.” 

Since March, the library issued 176 temporary library cards with over 100 requests to renew existing cards. 

Digital checkouts are up from 9114 to 14,440 with a 58% increase compared to the previous year. The digital library’s more popular resources include ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, music, and genealogical resources. “Learn a new language, pick up a new instrument, brush up on your interviewing skills. The digital library has many resources to meet you wherever you are in your learning journey,” says Chang. 

Staff responded to over 400 questions and requests, like Bill Quigley’s, since the library’s closure in March, “I want to share my appreciation of all the services that the MPLS is providing during these difficult times. The staff was very helpful in renewing my library card online for me. This opened the door to the great online services for books and other media,” says Quigley.

In addition to its digital library, staff from all branch locations are finding ways to engage with patrons through weekly creative competitions, month-long reading challenges, book recommendations, virtual story times, and book trails to demonstrate that learning can take place beyond a computer screen. 

“While this time may be unprecedented, it’s not unusual for MPLS to look for new ways to expand services,” says Sarah Palfrey, Director of the Morgantown Public Library System.  “Currently we are re-imagining what the Summer Reading Program looks like, staying true to its mission of fostering a love of reading while finding new ways to deliver the stories to the people of Monongalia County.”

The library staff are working with the Library Board of Directors and the Monongalia County Health Department in finalizing a reopening schedule. A plan is in place to reopen the library to the public in a series of phases so that it is done safely and effectively. Starting on Tuesday, May 26th, the library will be offering curbside pickup, followed at a later date, with a concierge option where expert staff pick out reading material based on an individual’s preferences. 

Along with the rest of the world, the library is entering an unknown world with a new set of rules. But if these record-high digital checkout numbers are any indication of the future, the library has proven its remote capabilities can still connect people through love of reading and learning even when we all can’t be together.