Enhancing Digital Collections during the Covid-19 Closure Period

André Lépine is a Skills Development Advisor, Cataloguing and Collections at Ontario Library Service–North.

As Ontario’s Declaration of Emergency remains in effect and libraries remain shuttered across the province, libraries are rapidly adapting their services, programs, and collections to the virtual environment in order to continue to meet community needs. Collections in particular are well-suited for the virtual realm, as most libraries began investing in streaming and downloadable content years ago. However, due to the increasing demand, many are now considering how to augment and supplement their digital offerings, as well as ensuring that accessing these services is as seamless as possible. Online library card registration, which allows for quick access to the library’s digital collection, is becoming increasingly common, and libraries’ websites and social media feeds are being updated and redesigned to prominently feature the digital collection. (Additional ideas regarding how to highlight these resources can be found on the Programming, Staffing and Well-being During COVID-19 resources page on LearnHQ.)

The following are services that merit consideration when exploring different products and services to enhance your library’s digital collection:

  • Joining the Overdrive provincial consortium is an easy, cost-effective way to provide digital content to your patrons. For libraries that already provide access to the provincial collection, consider becoming an Advantage member. This provides libraries with the ability to create a custom collection beyond the provincial shared collection, or add more copies of popular titles to reduce wait times. What is more, these features are accessible to patrons using the same download website or app. Libraries should contact Beth Harding (bharding@olservice.ca) for more information.
  • For libraries serving communities with a francophone population, Cantook Station (formerly MaBiblioNumérique) is available as a provincial consortium purchase. Libraries should contact Beth Harding (bharding@olservice.ca) for more information.
  • Promote Tumblebooks. The entire suite of Tumblebooks products (five separate services) are currently free. Promoting these resources is an excellent way to increase awareness and usage of these digital products.
  • Direct print-disabled patrons to the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) Library. All print-disabled patrons are eligible for CELA services. Patrons receive access by completing the registration form, in which they must self-identify their disability. Library staff can also register patrons on their behalf. The extensive digital library provides access to thousands of audiobooks available for download.
  • Consider providing access to a streaming service like Hoopla. This service provides access to audiobooks, movies, music, eBooks, and TV shows. Member libraries are charged per circulation, and have the ability to limit the types of materials as well as the price point of items available to patrons.

Other options include the following:

eBooks and eAudiobooks     Movies and Music Newspapers and Magazines Online Learning
cloudLibrary Kanopy RBDigital Khan Academy
Naxos Music Library Flipster Lynda.com
Freegal PressReader.com TechBoomers.com
IndieFlix Mango Languages

Note that the above list is not exhaustive. Libraries should contact skills@olsn.ca (if in Northern Ontario) or consulting@olservice.ca (if in Southern Ontario) to further discuss other possibilities.

As the COVID-19 closure period continues, libraries will benefit from enhancing their digital collection by purchasing new products and/or upgrading their current services, and promoting them appropriately on their websites, social media feeds, through email blasts, and other means.

STEM and STEAM programming for newbies, with littleBits!

RYRHave you had a chance to play with littleBits yet?  It’s a system of electronic building blocks that snap together to “turn ideas into inventions”.  (For more on how it all works, here’s a short TED talk on littleBits).

Here’s what makes them ideal for both staff and patrons exploring STEM and STEAM:

  • Magnetic – The bits snap together with magnets , making them easy for little hands (and not so little ones, too!)
  • Modular – Every Bit works with every other Bit, even across kits
  • Colour-coded – Each Bit is color-coded by its function (power, input, output, wire) in the circuit.  This makes combining the bits very straightforward.

Through B & B Education, SOLS offers a number of kits, each of which can build many projects.  Our aim is to give libraries “GREAT IDEAS FOR UNDER $1,000” that you can use in multiple programs and makerspaces.  Want to help kids  invent a mini, self-driving vehicle?  Or create a chain reaction machine for some Rube Goldberg shenanigans?  The littleBits STEAM student set does this and 6 other projects, with step-by-step instructions that are easy to follow.  And if you want to extend the power of your kits, you can always download the littleBits Invent app, linking you to thousands of inventions, challenges, and tutorials from the world wide littleBits community.

Join us for a free webinar with Max Ringelheim, Channel Account Manager at littleBits.  He’ll walk us thorough the basics, and pinpoint kits at price points that smaller libraries can afford.

Engaging STEAM & Coding Programs For Your Library With littleBits
November 1, 2018
10:00 A.M- 10:30 A.M.


Aquaponics at your library!

This week, we’re featuring a guest post by our colleagues Susan Thompson and Patrick Cychner at Burlington Public Library about their amazing aquaponics program, a great addition to any food literacy program. What is aquaponics, you ask?  Read on to learn more!

Interested in starting a similar program?  We have an collective purchasing agreement with Lumago for a significant discount.

At Burlington Public Library, we’re giving food away for free.

Our vision is to bring growing and sharing food into the paradigm of library service. To accomplish this, my colleague Patrick Cychner and I received approval to install an indoor garden at the Central branch of Burlington Public Library. We decided that an aquaponic system would be the best way to go. Aquaponic growing combines fish and plants into a symbiotic system: fish waste is converted by bacteria to a form of nitrogen that feeds the growing plants.

Burlington Public Edible Library Poster
Poster for Aquaponics Program at Burlington P.L.

We chose to work with Lumago, a local aquaponics technology company. Lumago was founded by Melissa Houghton, a McMaster Engineering grad. Though she primarily did greenhouse installations, she worked with us to create a small-scale educational installation of aquaponic technology. Lumago now markets this design to educational institutions.

Tilapia in the StudyPonics system by Lumago- Burlington P.L. image
Tilapia in the StudyPonics system by Lumago- Burlington P.L.

Our garden has allowed us to make wonderful connections with our local community. Schools and government officials alike have requested to come see our garden as part of a larger library tour, and the eye-catching installation has initiated countless conversations with members of the public. To help our customers take indoor gardening home, we have developed unique and well-attended programming.

Lumango in Burlington Public Library Image
StudyPonics system in Burlington Public Library

Closeup StudyPonics Systems by Lumago Image
Closeup StudyPonics Systems by Lumago

And when our kale, Swiss chard, and mint plants are ready for harvest, we cut and package them into recloseable plastic bags and give the produce away to the public, free of charge. It is delightful to be able to put a bag of freshly picked greens into someone’s hand in the middle of winter!