Libraries provide tutoring, e-books and more during back-to-school season

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published September 22, 2020

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HARRISON TOWNSHIP/FRASER — School districts regionally and nationally are operating on their own terms this school year. Local libraries are reminding residents that they can help ease the process.

The Suburban Library Cooperative, which includes the Clinton-Macomb Public Library, Fraser Public Library, Harrison Township Public Library, and numerous others in Macomb and Oakland counties, also supports a plethora of local school districts.

Due to some districts going virtual and others offering in-person learning, libraries are playing a unique role in helping students and families receive content that in most cases are free.

That includes free tutoring services available through Tutor.com, which offers test preparation, overnight reviews of essays and mathematical equations, and saves progress in a personalized profile.

The co-op also offers free e-books and audiobooks to library card holders, via the Overdrive and Libby smartphone apps.

“I think this is a topic everybody is wondering about, and I think libraries have a lot to offer,” said Harrison Township Public Library Director Melissa Goins.

That library has a partnership with L’Anse Creuse Public Schools. All students already possess virtual library cards because of their student IDs — something that Goins says some students and parents may be unaware of.

Goins said e-book and audiobook usage has “skyrocketed” during the pandemic, at which point her library and others pivoted toward virtual offerings and programming.

For example, a children’s librarian in Harrison Township is also a reading specialist at South River Elementary and records programming for children of different ages.

Streaming videos and music fall under that usage umbrella. The library also began recording and offering virtual programming on its YouTube channel, such as online story time sessions, craft and cooking segments.

In 2019, the library had 63,095 uses of its Scholastic BookFlix service — a literary resource that pairs classic video story books with relation nonfiction e-books, to develop an affinity for reading and learning. From January to March this year, the service was utilized almost 18,000 times.

Between June and August in 2019, the library had 4,698 electronic uses. Those numbers jumped to 12,054 in the same time period this year.

“The library is a community resource,” Goins said, adding that patrons have even sat in the library’s parking lot to utilize free Wi-Fi service. “We look for ways that we can help in our community and to offer assistance where our community needs it. We know that our community needs our services more than ever as we all adapt with our times.

“This year, with students attending school in so many different ways, we’re working to meet our students where they are no matter how they choose to learn this year. We very much view ourselves as an educational partner to our local schools and to our homeschooling families.”

Fraser Public Library is also working with the Fraser Public Schools to implement a virtual library card program, making it easier for students and their parents to access free materials and tutoring just by having a school code, student ID and a pin.

“The more the library can provide to our students in the community, the easier we can make of a year with no certainty, and the more we can all do to support our future leaders,” said Kelly Forrester, marketing and development coordinator at Fraser Public Library.

For more information visit www.tutor.com/suburban, download free apps on your phone or device, or visit your local library’s website.

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