Lone Star College-Tomball Community Library Adopts Virtual Services During COVID-19 Shutdown

Lone Star College-Tomball Community Library remains closed as greater Houston works to slow the spread of COVID-19, but library director Janna Hoglund has found a silver lining.

“This is what we consider this to be because we are really discovering the power of the online environment for our service,” Hoglund said.

The Tomball Community Library, part of the Harris County public library system, closed in mid-March due to the novel coronavirus. At first, most HCPL branches continued to offer limited, contactless services such as curbside book collection, although all buildings were closed to the public. Some staff at the Tomball branch worked temporarily out of the Barbara Bush Library until the HCPL system shut down all in-person services on March 25.

Library employees now work from home. However, in the week and a half before branch closures, the child and adult services teams were already preparing virtual programs. The teams continued to work to produce online services, programs and events accessible through the Lone Star College-Tomball Community Library Facebook Page. And the ideas get more and more creative over time, Hoglund said.

The Tomball Library has hosted a variety of in-person clubs, which have now moved to the online environment. From Scribe Tribe Writers to the Rootsquad Genealogy Club or the new Movie Review Club, meetings are posted as events on the library’s Facebook page and take place virtually on platforms like Webex.

Hoglund said that even though their doors are closed, the library continues to collaborate with other entities to extend services and resources to the community. Through a recently launched partnership with Google, the library is able to offer virtual workshops to teach digital skills relevant to professionals and businesses.

Customers looking for a respite from the everyday can enjoy an online coffee break with Tomball Librarians Nick Lege and Rachael Yates every Friday at 10:30 am.

The transition to digital services has been difficult, said Jay Smith, manager of young adult and adult services, but the result is that Tomball Library can still provide customers with a variety of services.

“For us, it’s about having a mix of things that are informative and educational, but also things that are just fun and relaxing to keep a sense of normalcy and keep in touch with people even if they can’t. not visit us in person, ”Smith said.

Kimberly Clutter, responsible for children’s services at LSC-Tomball Community Library, said that each HCPL branch with its own Facebook page presents a unique opportunity to provide programming specifically for customers in their community. Children who attended library programs can continue to connect with librarians they know through story hours and arts and crafts videos posted on the library’s Facebook page.

“I think this has been really beneficial because it allows us to maintain the relationships that we have already made with our customers,” said Clutter. “It’s a program for them in particular, and for them to continue to see us, and for the library to continue to be a truly meaningful part of their lives.

Since the library began expanding its virtual presence, Hoglund’s has noticed an increase in the number of people engaging in the library’s online activities. The posts are getting more “likes” and more and more families are posting pictures of their children interacting with the virtual programs.

“With the programs inside our walls in our regular activity rooms, we have limits on the number of kids who can attend,” Hoglund said. “But doing these programs online, there is no limit. We have (hundreds of) views and more of our programs, which is amazing.

The HCPL system has seen a dramatic increase in the use of online library resources, such as e-books and magazines, she said. An iKnow HCPL card gives access to the library’s digital resources. People can get an iKnow card online within minutes. A video guide on how to get an iKnow card is available on the library’s Facebook page.

When the LSC-Tomball Community Library reopens, Hoglund hopes to continue its services in the online environment. Embracing the transition to virtual programs has kept the library in touch with customers, she said, and even attracted new customers.

“I honestly believe that once we come back and reopen our doors, now we will have more people who will know our services, who will know the librarians and the children will come to our libraries more,” Hoglund said.

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Perry A. Thomasson