County library system continues to offer virtual services

As COVID cases rise, e-Content remains hot commodity

MATTHEW SHINKLE/The Sun: Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gloucester County Library System has offered its various events and resources through virtual and electronic means. However, there is hope that in-person events may once again be held starting in September.

Near the beginning of the pandemic, organizations, businesses and other entities were forced to embrace a much more virtual setting than they had become accustomed to.

For years, a shining example has been county and municipal libraries that have branched out to offer virtual services in different ways, but remained largely focused on the age-old model of welcoming families, adults and young children into the libraries and offering various events.

Much of what typically brings guests to a library is the opportunity to browse books, CDs, DVDs and other resources, which Head of Adult Services Nancy Polhamus said residents are enjoying once again since the Gloucester County Library System reopened.

“Since we reopened our doors more than a year ago in July of 2020, I think what people really missed the most was the ability to browse and look around and pick out what they wanted,” Polhamus said. “Once our doors were open again, people seemed to really enjoy having the chance to do that again.”

After the library system temporarily closed in March 2020, various events were forced to move online. If residents wanted something from their library, they would have to go through its website and request contactless pickup for specific items, rather than walking through the facility to retrieve them.

Many months ago, those services were something a fair amount of residents used, according to Polhamus, but that has since dwindled. Yet with cases rising as of late, it is possible more residents may switch back to contactless service.

Something that has taken off and continues to be widely utilized, Polhamus said, is the county’s wide selection of e-Content, spanning eBooks, music, movies, audiobooks, magazines and other resources that the library branches offered prior to the pandemic but that were not widely accepted until more residents learned about the ease with which they could access such materials.

“We have always had a big selection of eBooks, audiobooks, downloadables, streaming services and whatnot,” said Polhamus. “But once our doors were closed, people that had never used those before started calling us asking about how to use them, because they never had previously but wanted to since they couldn’t come in physically.

“Although I would say they were popular before COVID, they’ve really taken off even more when we first closed and still continue to,” added Polhamus. “Those statistics seem to be holding steady as more people learn how to use those and get comfortable with them. That’s probably the biggest thing we’ve seen change.”

As the new school year approaches, the library system looks forward to hosting more in person events after a significant period of time strictly online with some hybrid capabilities.

“We are just starting to look at having some in person programs in the fall,” Polhamus said.

Later in September, the library system plans to host its first in person meeting in over a year in a larger room to guarantee people can be spread out. But the system is currently uncertain about the number of events or programs that can be done in person.

For those interested in virtual library events or programs, the library takes registrations on its website and has previously posted children and adult videos to its YouTube channel.

For more information, visit the library system’s website at www.gcls.org.