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Already bored? Your local library can still help ... virtually

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You've read all the books in your pile, watched all the DVDs you own three times and are sick of the kids complaining there's nothing to do. The solution to all of those problems could be as close as a virtual trip to your local library.

Alex Reczkowski, director of the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield, said there are many options for people seeking online books, magazines and movies — not only for Berkshire Athenaeum patrons, but those of the libraries in Berkshire County who are part of the CWMARS program.

"The good news is that McMillan Books, which have been unavailable to libraries since Nov. 1, has lifted its embargo and libraries can get McMillan titles again," he said in a phone interview Wednesday. "In addition, Athenaeum staff members are going through e-books and movies on the Overdrive program, so we can offer more. We'll also be adding more magazines."

To download ebooks and audiobooks, as well as popular magazines, to your home computer or personal mobile devices, a press release from the Athenaeum advises patrons to visit the Overdrive collection of materials available at cwmars.overdrive.com. Download the appropriate free app from your app store. In most cases, it will be the app named Libby. Follow prompts in the app to select your library (CWMARS) and enter your library card number. Browse the collection where you have options for limiting to a specific format, language, audience, genre. Borrow one or more titles of interest and download the borrowed title to your device so you can read whenever it's convenient.

The CWMARS Overdrive collection also offers a collection of streaming video titles that includes popular feature films, classics and family favorites. Download the Overdrive app to watch with an internet connection, Reczkowski said.

Kanopy, a collection of classic cinema, foreign films, documentaries, independent titles and educational videos, can be streamed from Roku, iOS and Android devices using the Kanopy app. To get started: Go to pittsfieldlibrary.kanopy.com, enter your library card number to create an account and select your title and borrow. You have access to a borrowed title for 72 hours. For more information or help, visit help.overdrive.com/en-us/home.htm or contact the Athenaeum Reference Department at info@pittsfieldlibrary.org or 413-499-9480.

And if you're not an Athenaeum library card holder, Reczkowski said, Massachusetts residents are eligible for a Boston Public Library e-card, which gives the holder access to all of the Boston library's materials, including its Hoopla streaming service. There is a link to the Boston Public Library on the Athenaeum's website.

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"We're looking to expand what is offered online for kids," Reckowski said, which includes storytimes offered on the library's Facebook page and website.

All of the regular materials Athenaeum patrons have checked out have been renewed, Reczkowski noted. "There will be nothing due until the [virus] restrictions have been lifted. We're encouraging people to stay home. There is no reason to rush here and put books in the book drop."The North Adams Public Library's building is also closed to the public until further notice, Sarah Sanfilippo said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. Sanfilippo said the library had been offering a drive-through service, but due to concerns for the safety of the library's patrons and staff, it was discontinued on Friday. "Following the recommendation of the Massachusetts Library Association, we have decided to discontinue this service, with the last pickup being Friday, March 20," a press release Friday stated. Stopping this work goes against the work ethic of all library staff, but we feel it would be irresponsible of us to continue encouraging people to travel to the library and exchange materials in the midst of this global health crisis. Our priority is to protect the health of our patrons and our staff, and we can't guarantee that while continuing to circulate library materials, no matter how well they are cleaned. We can only minimize risk, not eliminate it."

Sanfilippo asks that no materials from the North Adams Library be left in the dropbox until further notice. Patrons are also asked not to return items from other libraries either as the delivery system between the libraries has been suspended. Renewals are available by calling the library, 413-662-313; there is also a fine amnesty in place as long as the library is closed. She said the library was looking at offering storytimes on Facebook and advised patrons to visit the library's website and Facebook page for any updates.

The library's wifi can be accessed outside the building, in the parking lot or on the lawn and sidewalk. For remote reference assistance, call 413-662-3133 or email reference@northadams-ma.gov. Access to the library's online resources can be found at naplibrary.com/e-resources.

The Lenox Library has been closed since Tuesday, Katie O'Neil, library director said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon. However, library staff members are still reporting to the library and are available to answer any reference questions from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays.

"All of the due dates have been delayed until May 1 and there will be no fines," O'Neil said. "We're amping up our Facebook postings to offer resources for kids currently at home. I have kids and I'm sympathetic to parents' needs. It's imperative to offer trustworthy information as much as we can." A peek at the library's Facebook page showed posts with links to virtual tours of libraries, Ken Burns' "Baseball" series on PBS and a list of children's authors doing online storytimes.

O'Neil noted that in accordance with guidelines issued by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, when materials are now placed in the drop box at the library, staff members, wearing gloves, take them out and put them on a cart, where they rest for 72 hours. After 72 hours, staff members in gloves, check the materials in and wipe the book covers and spines with disinfectant.

"Librarians are natural helpers," O'Neil said. "We are here; give us a call if you need help with our online resources or is you just want to hear a friendly voice on the other end of the line. Libraries are traditionally a place for community gathering; if we can't do it physically, we can do it telephonically or electronically."


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