Remote Control: Check It Out

6 minutes
Remote Control is the weekly blog for Oklahoma Today fall intern Abigail Hall. Check back each week as she discusses her work-from-home experience.
Week 1 Remote Control: Adapting
Week 2 Remote Control: The New Normal

Many communities have reopened local businesses and community centers, including restaurants, but many of these businesses have chosen to continue to operate as takeout or curbside only, while local concerts and public events are regularly being postponed for 2021.

It’s a hard time to connect with people, whether that be hanging out with a friend over a cup of coffee at a favorite café, going to a concert, or even checking a book out at the library—many of our go-to activities have been canceled or altered in some way. Yet, many organizations and locals are working tirelessly to provide alternative options to help keep communities engaged and connected during a year that no one saw coming.

Libraries have long been a free, public resource open to all, and Kim Terry, public relations manager for the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma City, says the public library is more important during the pandemic than ever.

“The library is really a gathering place for communities,” Terry says. “A lot of times groups meet here...we used to have a café and people would go down to the café and get their books and read. Well, during the pandemic they haven’t been able to do that.”

Many Oklahoma public libraries have stepped up their game to provide more resources to their communities, such as my hometown library, Stillwater Public Library, which started offering curbside pick-up as an alternative to browsing within the library.

Recently as a way to stay connected to those I care about, I joined my mom, aunt and two sisters in forming a virtual book club. While we’re spread out across three U.S. time zones, one of us picks a book and the rest of us read it and then talk about it over Zoom. We’ve gotten through two books already and are about to start our third—a mystery picked out by my youngest sister Mary.

I didn’t even realize how much I missed reading until we started doing this together—with going to college and working full-time, I began to read less and less over the last few years, despite my love for it. My favorite place as a teenager was Hastings (R.I.P). I’d spend my afternoons browsing through books and other media, sampling new music or simply hanging out in the café while working on homework. But in a pandemic we can’t do those things, but thankfully for all of us, our public libraries are trying to fill in that gap.

My mom has been using Stillwater library’s curbside pick-up as a way to procure our book club picks and loves it—all she has to do is log in to her library account and place a book on hold, and the library gives her a call when it's ready to be picked up. This resource has helped her join in with the fun without spending a dollar.

The Metropolitan Library System also moved into a curbside pick-up phase while the library was completely closed to patrons, Terry says, but as of August moved into a grab-and-go phase August 31, allowing masked patrons to physically enter the library, but for brief visits to check out a book or use the computer for up to two 30-minute sessions.

In addition to increased options to pick up physical media like books and CDs, libraries offer more virtual reading and media consuming options than ever before through platforms like OverDrive, an e-book service, which works with more than ninety library systems in Oklahoma as part of the Oklahoma Virtual Library program—from Ada to Woodward—to offer e-books available for download or streaming on your handheld device for free, as long as you have a public library card.

For parents tirelessly managing virtual learning, the library can be a supplement to the loss of an in-classroom experience, Terry says, through homework help resources with free tutoring, study guides, and homework questions of all topics.

“I know at the end of last school year we saw an increase of people using (homework help resources),” Terry says. “And I’m sure we will again this school year.”

So, whether you’re needing to engage your mind, get back into something you used to enjoy, or simply reconnecting with your loved ones, the library might just be the right place for you.

Written By
Abigail Hall

Abigail Hall is Oklahoma Today's fall editorial intern.

Abigail Hall
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