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Fraser library hopeful that digital offerings will negate in-person usage decrease

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published December 21, 2020

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FRASER — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused individuals and businesses across the spectrum to constantly pivot and adapt to a fluid situation. That includes the Fraser Public Library.

The library, located on 14 Mile Road, was originally shut down March 24 in compliance with state orders. Due to being unable to lend books and materials in a physical manner, the library focused on delivering content in a fully digital format.

Library Director Lorena McDowell said the on-the-fly transition was just one aspect of managing a fixed budget and staff duties.

“This pandemic has changed how we conduct business, and training and managing staff through it proved challenging because we don’t know how long this will last,” McDowell said.

The library unveiled a new website this year, featuring an online chat that connected to library personnel and allowed residents immediate access to a library card for access to the digital database.

However, community use continued to drop and showed a real dichotomy between in-person and digital interaction.

“We had 257 new library card applications between the months of March and October, and no increase in online database use than normal,” McDowell said. “Our lowest month in 2020 was zero new library cards. Yes, zero. I have never seen that before,”

She said some of the reduction was due to a months-long closure while the library’s summer reading club was relegated to mostly being conducted curbside.

The club often brings new people into the library system, she said, especially children who get their own cards.

But due to safety concerns and general uncertainty, the staff had to get creative — which has involved providing free entertainment, such as outdoor movie nights and Halloween events.

The library remains optimistic that online library card applications, curbside pickup and online programming will continue to draw community interest once the pandemic eventually goes away.

New programs continue to be offered to bring people in, such as a “Cooking Matters” program in collaboration with Gleaners Community Food Bank in 2021. Also, the first-ever Winter Break Reading Challenge was scheduled to begin this month.

“This goes without saying, but the library has been through a lot that I never expected to go through as a director,” McDowell said. “Our staff has been pros at adapting and overcoming these challenges that have presented us these past 10 months. They also have been great with taking care of the patrons and getting them the resources they need.”

The library is open for curbside pickup between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

For more information, call (586) 293-2055 or visit fraserpubliclibrary.org.

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