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Library closures shine a light on digital access and older resident care

Media Release

Latrobe City Libraries have continued to deliver since being unable to open to the public from 24 March.

Latrobe City Council Mayor, Cr Dan Clancey, said there had been substantial increases in online memberships, digital borrowing and in the home library delivery service.

“Of the 1500 items loaned since the 25 March, more than half were to people aged 70 and over, and almost 10 per cent were to those aged 90 years and over. Knowing that we’re keeping our older readers happy with this service is a bright spot in this uncertain time. Their feedback has consistently been around the fact that the service offers them some stability in their lives because being able to read or listen to books is a welcome distraction from the isolation requirements,” Cr Clancey said.

Libraries extended the criteria for the home library delivery service to ensure older members have access to items during the COVID-19 isolation restrictions.

“Library team members have been phoning members aged 65 or over, who were recently active borrowers to see if they would like items delivered. This personal touch has been well-received. A recent Facebook post about the service even attracted a comment from the Australian Children’s Laureate, Ursula Dubosarsky.”

Despite not being able to attend a physical branch, libraries welcomed 75 new members from 25 March to the middle of April. Nearly a quarter of those new members were aged 64 or over. And perhaps not entirely unexpected is the increase in access to the digital catalogue of materials.

“Libraries proactively increased borrowing capacity and released more titles for eAudio and eBooks to cope with the predicted rise in demand. The two and a half weeks from closure to mid-April saw borrowings spike in both the eAudio (1784 downloads) and eBook category (1448), equivalent to borrowings over the two full months previously. There has been a corresponding influx of new digital users – 172 in March/April – those who are members but have not accessed digital material previously.” Cr Clancey said.

To ensure new users of this kind of technology can get the most out of their new digital access, the library team is also offering a tech call back service.

“We know some people might find using apps and technology a little challenging, so you can now book a call with a friendly and knowledgeable library team member who will guide you through, step-by-step, to get the most out of the vast array of digital resources that your membership provides.

It’s not just the older members of the community who have embraced these adapted library services, as demonstrated by the engagement on social media by the Online Storytime videos published on the library’s Facebook page.

“Our weekly Online Storytime offers families a chance to connect with their favourite librarians and listen to a favourite book. We know children are missing the physical Storytime sessions but it’s pleasing to see the four videos uploaded so far have been viewed more than 3000 times,” Cr Clancey said.

Visit www.latrobe.vic.gov.au/library to join online, or call 1300 367 700. A library card will be issued to you when the branches re-open.

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