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Digital community hub

Michael Smith
msmith@ardmoreite.com
A red book drop at Champion Public Library is taped shut Thursday. While Southern Oklahoma Library System branches have extended due dates until further notice, classes and storytimes have been added to their Facebook page.

Every community’s knowledge hub normally has curious kids searching for game tutorials, retirees catching up on magazines, and a plethora of other activities. But these buildings now sit empty —no genealogical research, job searches or storytimes. Skeleton crews must limit contact with each other while keeping the bills paid and the grass cut.

This scene is currently playing out in hundreds of libraries across the country, and Carter County libraries are no different. The buildings may be all but deserted, but their parking lots, websites and social media accounts are a different story.

Officials with Ardmore Public Library and Southern Oklahoma Library System each said most services are still being offered to patrons. Elizabeth Gaylor, literacy and outreach librarian at Ardmore Public Library, said card holders can still check out books, movies, and video games through a no-contact system.

“Everything that is being returned is being quarantined for a couple days and cleaned before being returned back to the collection,” Gaylor said in an email Wednesday.

For Southern Oklahoma Library System cardholders, book drops are currently closed and due dates extended until further notice. SOLS Executive Director Gail Oehler said online services are still available for card holders including wireless internet access from parking lots.

Both libraries are promoting digital collections and testing new interactive offerings on social media platforms. Gaylor said virtual story hours and reading programs will be introduced by the Ardmore Public Library in coming weeks. Library cards are also being issued during the closure by visiting https://ardmore.okpls.org.

SOLS libraries have already started offering story times and various classes using Facebook Live videos. Cooking, crafting and exercise videos recorded by library staff from across the system have been uploaded to their social media presence, https://www.facebook.com/southernoklibrarysystem.

“Thank you, my girls and I miss your classes,” read a comment on a video about do-it-yourself lip scrub. “Now I know how to make some potting soil without going anywhere,” read a comment on a video about composting.

The videos are proving quite popular considering thousands of views and hundreds of shares in about a week. Oehler said a diversity in offerings is likely behind the videos’ popularity.

“The gamut is all over the place for what people are doing, but it has been so appreciated and popular with our patrons,” she said by phone on Thursday. “It’s amazing the amount of people that are engaging in these things because they’re wanting to have these services and they miss it,” she said.

Beyond services being offered to patrons, Oehler said branch managers are also finding ways to help the fight against COVID-19. Healdton’s branch manager has been making face masks while Davis’s branch manager has been using 3D printers to make face shields.

“As we’re closed, we’re still filling a lot of needs in the community,” Oehler said.