Posted by: Brad Nixon | April 20, 2020

National Library Week … At Home

Each year, Under Western Skies celebrates public libraries in observance of the U.S. National Library Week.

It’s now National Library Week 2020, with the theme, “Find Your Place at the Library.”

The obstacles confronting this year’s observances have immediately occurred to you: Most — if not all — the public libraries on planet Earth are closed as part of the cautions regarding the spread of the Covid 19 virus. Finding “your place at the library” excludes actually walking into a library.

But, in significant ways, many libraries are open, virtually.

If you’re reading this blog post, you have means to access the Internet. You, therefore, can likely access a library’s assets.

That statement has a somewhat dispiriting undertone. There are a significant number of people for whom a public library IS their Internet connection. Free, public computers and online access are a staple service offered by libraries large and small. Here, for example, in the historic library in Albany, Oregon, built in 1912.

Albany Library Brad Nixon 7596 680

There, on the original oak library table, almost a century old: computers. Now a fixture in most public libraries. Beyond the imagination of Andrew Carnegie, whose wealth funded construction of the building but left the contents to the discretion of the people of Albany.

Libraries Are Open … Virtually

Many of us who have an Internet connection can still use the library. What can we do?

Check out electronic books — either text or audio versions — downloaded to your computer or mobile device. Currently, there are three downloaded books in the Under Western Skies household, and more will be on their way. Go to your local library’s website. You may be impressed with what you find there.

Check out movies to watch at home. Services libraries use include Kanopy, Hoopla, Overdrive and others. These are not Netflix, Hulu, Amazon or other paid services, but you may be pleased to find hundreds or thousands of free movies available, as I’ve done in recent weeks. Again, check the library website. Possibly something you did not know.

Maybe you’ve always meant to practice yoga, tai chi, meditation. There are online courses for those, not to mention photography, calligraphy, and any number of of subjects. You’re not going anywhere for some number of weeks. A world awaits.

Take language courses via Rosetta Stone and other services. Always meant to extend your grasp of Mandarin, Italian or other foreign languages in preparation for your next trip? Now’s the time. Perhaps you’ll establish the habit in a way that will stay with you after the pandemic recedes.

Research news, genealogy, government or university archives. You may be impressed or surprised with the current publications and research your library already offered online, prior to the current shutdown. Little Miss Traveler from the Love Travelling Blog recommends Press Reader, available from some libraries, although there are a variety of services.

Call, Write, Connect

Despite the challenges, public libraries are doing their best to continue to serve. Some still have staff answering phone calls, or at least monitoring phone messages. Others will respond to online queries. If you have a question, contact them. The librarians at the other end of the line have degrees in library science. This is their hour. Ask them your question, and thank them.

No Library Card?

If you don’t have a library card, most public library websites I’ve checked offer the ability to enroll in your local library’s online lending program. I realize that not all libraries across the world have the means or scope to do so. I can only hope that you’re within virtual reach of a library, and that it will will represent a resource for you as we hunker down against the day that the crisis has passed.

Beyond Media

Public libraries provide many community services not directly related to books, movies and information media. Some have long records of providing much needed meals, especially to children, and many are striving to continue those services in the current crisis.

Many libraries offer story-telling events, special presentations, and more than a few have shifted those events to digital, online delivery. Check your library’s website.

Large and Small

I live in one of the cities that comprise the Los Angeles metropolis. My virtual library options are many. My own city operates a special library district with significant digital resources, and I’m also entitled to borrowing privileges with the extensive Los Angeles city and county library systems. In smaller cities and towns, you’ll likely have fewer options, but you may be pleased to find your library’s website does have resources available.

I went to the website of the Silver City, New Mexico Public Library. Population about 10,000, and a great place to visit, at the foot of the Gila Mountains in the southwestern corner of the state.

Silver City NM Brad Nixon 054 (640x434)

Yes, if you live in Silver City, the library website (link above) offers some of the same digital resources I have here in Los Angeles. Just one example. Celebrate National Library Week, and thank a librarian when you have a chance.

Please let me and Under Western Skies readers know if your library is there while we’re staying at home. Leave a comment.

© Brad Nixon 2020


  1. Great post. Once again, libraries adapting to the times and offering valuable resources for all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. And thanks for the e-books you’ve ordered that I’m enjoying, too.


      • You are most welcome. It’s a pleasure sharing books with you.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. EXcellent! Thanks, Brad!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s my pleasure. Thanks for reading.


  3. Thank goodness for our libraries! Have you read The Library Book by Susan Orlean? I think you might find it interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, both of us read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. An admirable piece of research and writing. We were in the Central Library not long ago, showing it off to family from out of town. I have one book here I got delivered from their collection to the local branch, and who knows when I’ll have to return it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Are you also able to access Press Reader to read your daily newspapers and magazines Brad? Not all libraries in the U.K. subscribe to it but we are fortunate to have this service and to be able to access daily papers from around the globe. Our family use the service each day and now that I have unexpectedly more time on my hands, I also print off the cryptic crossword from my favourite broadsheet then spend ages trying to unravel the clues as I’m much more rusty tan when I used to do it daily. Our own library is quite small and lovely and old fashioned and has been used for the filming of numerous films and television programmes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did not know about Press Reader until now. I find it available through the LA Public Library. Thank you. I’ll add it to the blog post.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks, Brad, for reaffirming the great value of public libraries, especially during these parlous times. Not that the readers of your blog would have such a misunderstanding, but many of the general public continue to view libraries simply as warehouses full of paper books (not that there’s anything wrong with paper books!) and don’t fully grasp how much these institutions have for many years now adopted technology such as eBooks, media streaming services and online databases, thereby providing vast amounts of digital content. As a librarian myself, I’m proud of what my own employer and most public libraries in the U.S. and many other nations have done to be relevant to citizens’ needs in the 21st century. Also not to be overlooked is how most libraries have embraced the role of “third space” or community center where people can just hang out or attend myriad programs that can be educational or just downright fun (history lectures, toddler story times, craft-making demonstrations — I even heard once of a library that offered a hands-on program in hog butchering!). Sad to say, during the pandemic, this community center element has basically evaporated. But I’m confident that role, and all the other roles that libraries play, will return again before too long.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well said. Even as a proponent of public libraries with some familiarity with what’s on offer, writing this post reminded me of what a small percentage of the available resources I’ve investigated.
      I got my hog butchering experience (from distance) on a farm, but I can attest to the value of plenty of other library programs.
      Thanks for reading, thank you for the comment.


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