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‘People are always still hungry for community’: CHPL working to keep residents connected

The building may be closed, but the Cherry Hill Public Library certainly isn’t. 

“The most important thing for me and my staff is that we are still serving the community in whatever way we can,” said Library Director Laverne Mann.

With the state mandating that all public libraries remain closed until Monday, April 13, the Cherry Hill Public Library is refocusing their efforts and working to engage with the Cherry Hill community online. 

Mann said each year, the library provides statistics to the state reporting out their electronic circulation. In Cherry Hill, they’ve seen consistent growth with their numbers rising about 2 percent each year. While their electronic circulation still stands at less than 20 percent of their total numbers, the library was already on solid footing when it came to promoting their online services, Mann said.

In an effort to help keep people connected, any Cherry Hill resident can fill out an online application for a library card. In the past, residents had to come in and provide an ID or other proof of residency. Mann said for now, they’re letting residents simply apply online. She said they’ve also heard from residents who are concerned their cards are about to expire, so they’ve extended everyone’s card until the end of June. 

The card provides residents with a wide range of electronic services. Through the library’s website, residents can get access to e-books, audiobooks, video and music streaming and digital magazines. 

The library staff also jumped into action when they learned the library would have to close. The Children’s Department staff recorded story times that they’ve been sharing on Facebook, so that the library’s youngest demographic can still feel connected to a familiar face. Mann said the engagement with these videos has been unprecedented with the library’s posts getting 10 or 20 times more engagement than they had previously.

Mann said they’re also working on creating videos for other age groups. She said this could mean staff utilizing library resources at home, explaining how to fill out the census or spreading the word about new books. 

She said they’re also preparing for the possibility that they’ll remain closed past April 12, so they’re in talks about how to move some of their in-person services online. 

Mann said their English as a Second Language services, for instance, are incredibly important to the community members they serve, and they’re looking into ways to make that class electronic. She said they’re also considering having book discussions online and other services that help the staff connect with patrons who came in on a regular basis. 

“My staff has been incredibly creative in how they are trying to connect with people,” Mann said. “People are always still hungry for community.”

Library staff are also engaged in training and professional development while they’re working from home. Mann said staff are already required to regularly participate in professional development, but now they’re focused on technology training to help people trying to use their online services.

“We really miss seeing our patrons and throwing our large events; We really can’t wait until we get cleared to return,” Mann said.

To learn more about the library’s kids from home resources, visit http://chplnj.org/forkidsfromhome. For teen programming, visit http://www.chplnj.org/teens. To apply for a library card, visit  https://chplnj.org/card_application. Visit https://chplnj.org/ for more information.


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