Libraries Help Families During Quarantine

Free online and digital resources from your public library that help you stay in touch, educate your kids, and entertain the whole family

Libraries have always been there for people in times of need or crisis, whether it is in person, over the phone, or online. As parents face the uncertainties of school closings and the disruption or cancellation of children’s activities due to COVID-19 (aka the Coronavirus), or if you and your family are currently homebound due to quarantine, it is comforting to know that your local public library can still be of service to you even from the safety of your own home. 

Here is a list that EveryLibrary has put together of the top free library resources that children and families can access online. Some of these resources can help supplement any virtual learning your children may be doing or help prevent your kids from losing any academic progress during an extended absence. Others offer much needed entertainment and family fun. If you need help using them, be sure to call or email a librarian to ask for help!

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  • Zoobean / Beanstack Reading Challenge - Although Summer Reading is still a few months away, why not get a head-start on getting your children excited about reading for pleasure by organizing your own reading challenge! Not only is Zoobean’s Beanstack an excellent online platform for keeping track of your family’s reading, but it also allows you to earn badges, post reviews, and it even gives you helpful suggestions about what books to read next as you log your progress. Ask your local librarian to see if they are willing to set up a Spring Reading Challenge for your community.

  • Overdrive Screening Room for PBS - You may already be aware of Overdrive and its user-friendly app Libby as a fabulous source for accessing ebooks and digital audiobooks using your library card, but did you know that Overdrive offers streaming video as well? Thanks to an agreement with PBS, Overdrive’s Screening Room offers thousands of video programs, including children’s videos, documentaries, instructional videos, and Spanish-language programming as well. 

  • Free online tutoring with Brainfuse - For many school districts this will be the first time many teachers and students have attempted to learn in an online classroom and not everyone may flourish in this challenging new environment. Brainfuse to the rescue! Brainfuse is a popular online tutoring platform that many libraries subscribe to that can offer live homework help and online writing assistance to students. Using Brainfuse’s Study Suite kids can access practice tests, online flashcards, and other learning assessment tools that can help keep them focused and prevent them from falling behind.

  • Mango Languages - It’s never a bad time to learn a new language, and with over 70 languages to choose from— from Arabic to Yiddish— Mango for Libraries is one of the easiest ways to teach yourself a foreign language online, with interactive lessons which emphasis conversational skills and cultural education. Mango also has a collection of foreign films in a variety of languages with a breakdown of the dialogue especially created for language instruction. For those who are learning English, Mango offers English instruction in over 20 different languages as well. Want to take your minds off worrying for an afternoon? Use Mango to learn how to speak Pirate with the whole family!

  • Look up your roots via Heritage Quest - Online genealogy can be a fun and educational family activity, as you are able to introduce your children to your roots in a way that can make the past come alive. Heritage Quest is an online genealogical research tool that library users are able to use remotely online from their own homes. Search U.S. and Canadian Census and immigration records, vital records from all over the world, military records, and multimedia collections including family photos postcards, gravestone images, and historic newsreels.

  • Explora is your virtual encyclopedia - Remember when the library’s print encyclopedia was your best friend whenever you needed to write a paper? EBSCO’s Explora puts all of the information your children need at their fingertips with a simple, Google-like search interface and high-quality licensed articles from reputable and trustworthy publishers which have been selected for a school environment. Explora offers content suitable for several grade levels: Elementary, Middle, and High School.

  • RBDigital and Zinio for magazines - Libraries have online subscriptions to hundreds of digital magazines through services such as RBDigital and Zinio. With digital magazines you get all of the glossy content without worrying about anyone else’s germs! With subscriptions to educational, informational, and recreational content, you and your children will have many options to choose from for both school and reading for pleasure.

  • Hoopla and Kanopy - While movies at the library might be off the table for several weeks, you can still have your own screening of many popular films using your library’s subscription to Hoopla or Kanopy. Kanopy has thousands of titles, from cinema classics to indie films, including documentaries and foreign films. Hoopla also has an impressive film library to choose from, as well as television shows, music and streaming audio, and exercise videos— a great way to keep your kids moving around while P.E. isn’t session! For comic lovers, Hoopla has comics books, graphic novels, and manga as well. 

  • Naxos Music Library - Having a subscription to Naxos through your public library is like having first-row seats to your local symphony. The Naxos Music Library is the most comprehensive online collection of classical music— with over two million tracks of classical music, jazz, world, folk and Chinese music available, finding the right composer to help maintain your composure during an extended home stay will be easy.

  • Test-prep tools from Learning Express - Beat the “quarantine slide” and stay sharp for your upcoming standardized tests with EBSCO’s Learning Express, which provides a comprehensive selection of interactive online tutorials and practice tests which have been modeled by real educators using the official tests as their guide. Learning Express includes testing materials for the Common Core, Non-Common Core, and Canadian editions of the major standardized tests, as well as the ACT, SAT, AP and TOEFL.

  • NoveList Reading List Recommendations - There’s nothing like a good book recommendation from your children’s or teen librarian, as they are constantly on the lookout for what’s new and interesting in the publishing world and keep their fingers on the pulse of up-and-coming authors. Even though you might not be able to get a personal recommendation, EBSCO’s NovelList Plus is the next best thing, as it provides hand-crafted recommendations and “read-alikes” from actual librarians and other book experts. So never fear! Your next favorite book is just a few clicks away.

Every $10 we raise helps us reach 1,000 more Americans who care about libraries.

We hope you find this list to be helpful in getting you through these challenging and uncertain times. If your library does not subscribe to any of the resources mentioned above, be sure and check with your librarian to see if they have any alternatives— they almost always do! Your state library often has these or similar services as well.  Don't forget that many libraries answer questions via email and phone too.

We’re all in this together, and we wish you safety and good health! 

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