Libraries have an inspired, air-conditioned vibe with extra desirability during the dog days of summer. Bookworms, information seekers and aficionados of culture and crafts explore the stacks to escape the sun’s melting powers and to welcome a chance encounter with a volume they may only have dreamt about.
My library trips have been sharply curtailed during this summer of yielded traditions, but I’ve still managed to borrow and learn from local libraries. While the stacks at Henderson Libraries are off limits for now because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, electronic offerings and curbside pickups are still available. Those living closer to branches of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District have enjoyed the resumed opportunity to browse for books in person since late June.
The physical closure to the public of Henderson’s four libraries has forced some of us to branch out and become more virtual in our library habits. As with a few other hunkering-down disruptions to everyday life (grocery shopping!), there has been a silver lining. After snooping around the Henderson Libraries website, I joined Nevada Humanities’ 2020 Nevada Reads campaign encouraging state readers to pick up the nonfiction “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.”
The book explores the “wheel estate” lives of Americans struggling as they travel around the country patching together mostly low-paying, temporary jobs, including at a former Amazon warehouse in Fernley. Getting an electronic copy of Jessica Bruder’s 2017 book was easy with my Henderson library card, which allowed me access to Overdrive, one of several services that provide copies of limited selections of books that may be downloaded on tablets, phones, computers and ebook readers. Bethany Lafferty, assistant manager at the Green Valley Library, said many library users in Henderson have migrated to the system’s digital content during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We saw a 2,500-checkout increase in March over February,” Lafferty said about Overdrive, which allows free access to ebooks, magazines and audio books. She said demand jumped from nearly 11,000 items to about 13,500 and has continued to increase by 800 to 900 items per month. By the end of July, monthly borrowing of items through Overdrive had increased to 16,254.
The library system also offers Libby and Hoopla platforms for additional digital and audio book and magazine titles. Selections are limited, and demand for popular titles typically translates into wait times. But the library system’s offerings can supplement what’s personally available and keep reading expenses down during financially challenging times. Through Aug. 17, the Big Library Read is promoting the Victorian-era thriller “The Darwin Affair,” a novel taking dramatic liberties with the life and events surrounding the famous evolutionist. The goal of the global promotion is to get people around the world to read and talk about the same book at the same time.
While the library system’s magazine collections are short on hard news, some fun and informative selections include HGTV, House Beautiful, Prevention, “O” Oprah, Reader’s Digest, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and Family Handyman.
Movies and television programming are also available from Henderson Libraries on Hoopla and another platform called Kanopy. Two other platforms, Creativebug and Lynda.com, are available for online learning opportunities. Finding out what’s available requires an investment of time that’s well-spent.
In addition to helping Henderson residents with their virtual content wishes, the library system has created original digital programming for kids and teenagers. Librarians have taken their summer story times and craft demonstrations and put them on YouTube.
“We’ve seen positive response on social media to the virtual programming we’ve done,” Lafferty said. Yoga and origami demonstrations mix with lessons tied into themes of summer reading programs. Families have been able to pick up craft supplies outside libraries, where curbside delivery of books from library collections and book returns also take place. Hours are limited for such services, and delivery details must be arranged in advance.
Another cherished discovery I made this summer was that Henderson librarians have been busy curating lists of available resources to help us cope with stay-at-home fatigue. Nothing beats an actual visit to a national park or a world-class museum, but thanks to these librarians I don’t have to remember where I saw those links to virtual tours of Sequoia National Park or the Getty Museum, both in California. If international sites are more your cup of tea, available options include London’s British Museum, Paris’s Musee d’Orsay and Mexico City’s National Museum of Anthropology. A link to Smithsonian Magazine’s “Aerial America” programming helped me accomplish some armchair domestic traveling and strategize for post-pandemic vacation life. There’s even a link to Yale University’s free online class, “The Science of Well-Being.” Help for academic goals and practical, personal development is also available.
In early August, Lafferty said Henderson Libraries did not have a target date for reopening. Regardless of when library users get to walk back through the doors, Lafferty said staff members are committed to adapting, innovating, “remaining relevant and helping to educate and entertain during these trying times.” Helping to inspire Henderson children has been a major priority, she said. New “Click, Clack, Moo” story pages have been added to Cornerstone Park’s “Story Walk” panels, sharing a humorous kids tale about typing cows on the mile-long path circling the lake. Some crafts and story times have focused on world mythology, including Greek and Roman stories about the skies. One of those notes that bright Sirius, the dog star in the constellation Canis Majoris, rises in the sky during the hottest times of July and August.
During these dog days of summer, I miss the tradition of wandering in the library’s stacks, but it’s lovely for now to have access to new reading materials without having to leave my home.
Natalie Burt, a former news reporter at the Review-Journal, has lived in Southern Nevada for 31 years and spends as much time as possible enjoying the outdoors here. She is now a teacher and has lived in Henderson for 19 years. firstname.lastname@example.org.