Libraries give back-to-school review of digital resources

Free online tutoring available

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published September 3, 2020

STERLING HEIGHTS — Libraries are typically one of the places where students may go to learn, research and hit the books. But when COVID-19 precautions make that difficult, digital resources are there to fill in the gap, library spokespeople say.

The Suburban Library Cooperative is promoting the Virtual Library Card program, in which parents may sign up and obtain access to tutoring and other educational resources.  

Among those virtual resources, gives patrons access to tutoring for homework and exams. OverDrive’s Libby app lets users borrow ebooks and digital audiobooks.

Tammy Turgeon, the Suburban Library Cooperative’s director, said those programs have existed in the cooperative over the last few years. But she said they’re more relevant due to how widespread virtual schooling currently is.

“We wanted to just remind the parents and students that these resources are available,” Turgeon said. “We’re not able to go into schools to do presentations right now. This is a reminder to help parents out as well as students so they can excel in their schoolwork.”

Turgeon, who also is the Sterling Heights Public Library director, said both the Sterling Heights and Troy libraries are part of the library cooperative. She added that Utica Community Schools and the Troy School District are likewise participating in the cooperative’s Virtual Library Card program.

Sterling renovates, adapts
Due to COVID-19 precautions, the Sterling Heights Public Library is closed for in-person browsing but has curbside pickup services available to the public. It also is hosting some library activities in the vicinity of its outdoor Children’s Garden; other programs are done virtually.

In addition, the library also lets people make appointments to use computers or do copying or faxing. And recently, the library announced a new program for doorstep deliveries of certain library materials for kids who are doing virtual schooling.

According to Sterling Heights  Public Library public relations and programs coordinator Jason Groth, library renovations have been continuing throughout the summer, too. Around three-quarters of the building is currently affected. The first phase is supposed to wrap up by the end of October, and then a second phase will target the remainder of the building, with a goal of finishing by early next year.  

Once the first phase is done, a limited number of patrons might be allowed to enter the building to read books and access other materials, Groth said.

“Depending on how COVID looks in the state, we might open again,” Groth said. “A limited certain number of people would be allowed in the building at a time. It’ll get even better once the full renovations are completed in early 2021.”

Groth confirmed that spending on virtual library resources has risen year over year. He said OverDrive’s Libby gives patrons access to a large number of ebooks, and he praised for giving kids access to a vetted, highly trained tutor amid a season of virtual schooling.

“It’s very useful for parents where maybe teaching isn’t their thing,” Groth said. “Now they’re kind of taking the reins to doing that.”

Troy prepares for school-related surge
Connie Doherty, the head of adult information services at the Troy Public Library, confirmed that digital resources have been popular lately.

She said about 25% of the library’s overall collection is composed of digital materials. She said OverDrive’s Libby app has been used in 108,565 checkouts this calendar year, and has been used for 219 tutoring sessions this year.

Doherty added that the library has continued to add more resources to its digital collection, especially since the shutdown in March.

“There were a lot of physical materials that we didn’t end up ordering,” she said, adding that it was impossible to do so. “We ended up using those collection funds for more digital resources that people could access remotely, if you can’t go and check something out.”

Like Sterling Heights’ library, the Troy library is currently closed to in-person browsing. Doherty said that while this might make things a little harder for people who like to be face to face, staffers have provided reference and technology assistance whenever possible — whether it involves downloading materials, placing holds on e-books or accessing streaming services.

Doherty expects her library to experience a surge in back-to-school demand.

“We will be busier, just the way we always are in the fall once everyone gets back in the swing of things,” she said.

The moment arrives as Troy voters will be asked at the polls this November whether to replace and increase an expiring library millage, from 0.7 to up to 1.1 mills, for a 10-year period.

Find out more about the Sterling Heights Public Library, 40255 Dodge Park Road in Sterling Heights, by visiting or by calling (586) 446-2665. To reach the Troy Public Library, 510 W. Big Beaver Road in Troy, visit or call (248) 524-3538.

Find out more about the Suburban Library Cooperative by visiting or by calling (586) 685-5750. For the Virtual Library Card program, visit ing-school-districts.