McArthur Public Library in Biddeford, shown here, along with Dyer Library in Saco and Libby Memorial Library in Old Orchard Beach are upping their online offerings as they serve patrons during the coronavirus pandemic. Tammy Wells Photo

You love your library. You love the books, the nice people at the desk, the interesting programs.

But when it seems like the entire world is shut down, with institutions, governments, businesses and residents complying with stay at home orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, how can your library love you back?

Ask the staff at McArthur Library in Biddeford, Dyer Library in Saco and Libby Memorial Library in Old Orchard Beach and they’ll tell you online – at their websites and through online social media.

There are story times for kids, programs like cooking demonstrations, and online events like the weekly knitting group at McArthur Library in Biddeford.

There’s McArthur McClosure Trivia on the library’s Facebook page.

As well, there are online books one can access with their library card, through the online Maine State Library. As well, the Digital Maine Library has resources, including books, newspapers, genealogy, languages and more at: https://library.digitalmaine.org, according to the Maine Library Association.

Knit one, purl two? A knitting group at McArthur Library in Biddeford has been meeting for four years, and when the pandemic hit and the library closed down, they took it online. Tammy Wells Photo

Offline? That is more difficult, but McArthur Library Director Jeff Cabral said staff have been calling patrons, just to see how they’re doing. They don’t bring books, but they provide a friendly voice.

“One patron doesn’t have internet, doesn’t get cable television or a newspaper and was a bit in the dark about what was going on, so we brought her up to date, and provided some information reassurance. More and more libraries are doing that,” said Cabral.

The knitting group has been meeting live, at the library on Biddeford’s Main Street for four years, every Friday, from 10 am. to noon. Experienced knitters teach beginners, said Melanie Taylor Coombs, McArthur’s adult services supervisor.

These days, they’re getting together virtually, online at home, logging on to the McArthur Library website and then to the Jitsu room where everyone can knit and chat and socialize.

“It has been a great way to keep in touch,” said Coombs. “And it doesn’t matter where you are.”

Knitters from as far away as South Carolina have inquired about the group, said Coombs.

And while some patrons may not have a computer at home, there are ways to join in.

“One of our regular library patrons walked to the library with her walker every Friday,” for the knitting program, said Coombs. “We reached out to her and got her online with her (mobile) phone.” Now, the patron joins in.

One knitting group member they’d like to get in touch with is Rosemary, said Coombs. No one in the group knows her last name and a search of the library patrons named Rosemary didn’t produce the correct one — so Rosemary the knitter, please call the library.

As to closure, Cabral said when the word  came to shutter, it came quickly.

“We knew that we needed to pivot quickly and be both creative and innovative, once we had to close to the public on March 16,” he said. “The team had done some preparation for creating online content, but of course everything happened so quickly and the learning curve has been both challenging and positive.”

McArthur Library has been using Facebook and Instagram, creating content for varying ages, Cabral said, and now has a You Tube channel.

This Thursday, April 23, there’s a live online question and answer session with Maine author Monica Wood, set for 6:30 p.m.

In Saco, the Dyer Library also closed its doors due to concerns over the coronavirus, and there’s a lot going on online, as well, said Director Leslie Rounds. She said Dyer Library’s head of children’s service, Brooke Palmer, is posting links to resources like a story hour and author readings on the library’s Facebook page, along with information about eBooks and the Maine Info Net Download Library. As well, Dyer Library has set up a free account to the TumbleBooks online collection that patrons may access, she said.

In Old Orchard Beach, Libby Memorial Library’s children’s librarian, Kim McLaughlin, has been offering virtual story times, which are archived, so they can be viewed anytime, said Director Lee Koenigs. As well, there are a variety of streaming children’s programs on the Facebook page, and access to eBooks, streaming video,  a resume creator, and more on the website, she added.

All are looking to the day when they can reopen, though the day has not arrived.

Cabral, at McArthur Library, said between 200 and 250 librarians meet online weekly to receive guidance on a number of issues from the Maine State Library.

He noted the library may look very different, upon an initial reopening, as librarians discuss adding counter guards, or removing some seating, and perhaps offering curbside book delivery — but all of those options are at the discussion stage and decisions haven’t been made, he said.

When the libraries do open again, Cabral said he expects some online offerings to continue on — he said there’s been discussion about the library’s summer learning program — a service he said could coexist with the regular program, and broaden the library’s reach.

The online reach is already broadening.

“We have people from all over Maine and beyond watching our virtual programs,” he said. “The library community is fortunately rich with creativity and ideas, and we are all sharing our content with one another’s communities and patrons too.”

When will they all open again? No one really knows; Cabral said early May had been a target, but that seems unlikely.

“I can’t begin to tell you how very eager we are to reopen and get back together with our customers,” said Rounds at the Dyer.

Koenigs said staff is missing patrons, and patrons are missing them, but that the library won’t open until it is safe.

“We’ll be so happy to be back and it will happen,” said Koenigs. “In the meantime, we just need to be smart, which means being patient.”

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