Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth, as well as others, have moved children’s services online. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

OK, so you’re not allowed to physically frequent your local library right now, and that’s a bummer.

But instead, you should check out all the things Maine libraries are now offering online, from streaming author talks, story times and cooking demonstrations to language lessons, tons of e-books, resources relating to the pandemic, movies and TV shows.

When the internet burst into the world two decades ago, there were those who said libraries were doomed. But they adapted and continued to be essential in their communities. Now libraries are adapting again in the middle of a world health crisis, with their doors closed and their patrons isolated at home.

“A library is more than a repository of books, it is a connection to your community, an exchange of ideas and access to information from quality resources,” said James Rathbun, director of the Baxter Memorial Library in Gorham. “The demand for our services remains as high as ever and, if we cannot provide them in person, we will do it remotely as best we can.”

Libraries are still doing author talks, like this one with Joan Dempsey at Portland Public Library, but online. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

This week is National Library Week, April 19-25, so it’s a good time to check out your local library’s online and virtual offerings. The offerings differ from library to library. Most provide access to downloadable e-books and some statewide library resources. Some of the events, like author talks, are open to the general public and not just library patrons. But it’s best to check the website of individual libraries.

Here are just a few highlights, provided by staff at each library, of what some southern Maine libraries are doing.

Baxter Memorial Library, Gorham

Programs usually done in person are being offered on Facebook Live, including children’s story times, craft programs and even cooking demonstrations. There are also new sections on the website for teens and kids, including a weekly Lego challenge where builders are given a theme, then asked to email a picture of their creation to the library to be shared online.

Falmouth Memorial Library

Book groups, craft sessions and story times are being held on either Facebook Live or through Zoom. Like a lot of libraries, the Falmouth library is still providing reference services, and people with questions can call (207) 781-2351 or email the library.

McArthur Public Library, Biddeford

Using Facebook and Instagram, the Biddeford library has created a lot of new live and prerecorded content for various age groups, including story times, bedtime stories, read-alouds, poetry readings, a knitting group and cooking and smoothie-making demos. The library will be hosting a virtual Q&A with Maine author Monica Wood at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

Many children’s events, like this one at South Portland Public Library, are showing up in online or virtual versions. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Portland Public Library 

Staff say some of the services being used most right now include access to magazines, like Consumer Reports and language-learning tools like Mango and Pronunciator. Librarians have also created an online archive of people’s personal stories of the health crisis, called Isolating Together. The Peaks Island branch hosts a children’s book group on Zoom with trivia and games. Talks by Maine authors will be held virtually on Zoom, including one Thursday with Lily King and Susan Conley. Phuc Tran will talk about his memoir “Sigh, Gone” during a conversation May 20 with author Jaed Coffin.

Scarborough Public Library

The Scarborough library offers its cardholders access to the streaming service Kanopy, which includes independent, classic and documentary films plus children’s series. Through Kanopy people can access Great Courses, an online selection of college-level courses. A service called Flipster lets patrons read digital versions of popular magazines, and Lynda.com provides access to online technical and business courses.

Libraries are not physically open right now, but they’re still providing services. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

South Portland Public Library

Library staff is using social media and the library website to share recommendations for e-books and provide links to various entertainment and educational services. There are also read-alouds and blogs on the website with information and activities. Some of the virtual events hosted by the library include story times, a Spanish language group and book groups.

Thomas Memorial Library, Cape Elizabeth

The Kanopy streaming service is also offered here, along with lots of downloadable e-books and e-audiobooks. There’s a daily Fika (Swedish for coffee break) on Zoom where people can chat, plus wellness programs facilitated by local mental health professionals to help people with stress. Programs that have transitioned from in-person to online include a songwriting workshop, Democracy Café, book groups, a writing group and story times, music and other programs for children and teens.


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