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You can't visit, but Brisbane's libraries are still a virtual reality


Brisbane’s libraries may have physically closed last month due to social restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, but they remain virtually open, with an extensive range of online services still available for housebound residents.

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Brisbane City Council libraries have more than 150,000 online resources available to residents, including eBooks, eAudiobooks, language lessons, music, films and documentaries and eMagazine subscriptions, which are all available remotely, and free to access for library members.

Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said the city’s 33 libraries have always been safe spaces for social connection and its services remained a vital part of people’s daily lives.

“In response to the challenges of coronavirus, maintaining these connections to libraries is important and council has increased online services to keep connecting with residents and keep minds busy as we isolate to keep each other safe,” Schrinner told InQueensland.

Brisbane’s libraries normally offer a range of public engagement programs and on-premises events, and Schrinner said adapting to the changing needs of its customers while they were in social isolation was important.

“Council’s library services have made sure they are doing everything they can to continue to deliver much-loved programs and events in different ways.

“Children’s literacy sessions, author content, trivia, tutorials for accessing the e-collections and ideas for keeping the kids entertained these school holidays are being shared via the Brisbane Libraries Facebook page and in the coming week, council will also launch the Brisbane Libraries book club podcast.”

For vulnerable members of the community unable to access the libraries’ online services, a home library service is still available, with registered customers able to have a selection of books, magazines, audiobooks, DVDs and CDs brought to their homes.

“Usually a medical practitioner must support eligibility for the service, however this requirement will be waived for any application received during the coronavirus pandemic,” Schrinner said.

“People can phone their local library to apply and once the application is completed, applicants will receive a letter confirming receipt of the application and whether they are eligible.

“Council understands how important it is to provide recreational reading and social stimulation for vulnerable people who are isolating in their homes and library staff regularly phone home library service customers to have a friendly chat about their reading preferences and requests for items.”

Digital books and digital audiobooks have become an increasingly popular component of the libraries’ collection that many people have been accessing in recent weeks.

“The traditional physical audiobook format was a good fit for people with disabilities that made reading physical books difficult. In recent years, as people have become busier and keen to multi-task, audiobooks have become a popular part of the collection.”

Since 2018, Queensland libraries have also offered access to the Kanopy streaming service, which has a selection of more than 4000 movies, ranging from children’s entertainment and documentaries to Hollywood blockbusters.

At this stage, council libraries are forecast to remain closed until at least April 30, with due dates for physical items currently on loan extended to June 30.

Schrinner said he hoped the library’s online offerings would provide a welcome distraction to Brisbane residents while they were staying at home over the Easter break.

“Isolation is also a time when people are looking to remain positive and seek a distraction from what is happening in the world.

“Through online library services, people can learn a new language, discover images of Brisbane’s past through archives, watch recordings of authors talking about books and look for their next great read and there are lots of online resources for kids to keep them busy over the holidays.”

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