This week on the SLIC blog Libraries Team Leader Alison Nolan from Inverclyde Libraries talks about their response to COVID 19 and how it has helped them enhance their digital library offer.


When Inverclyde Libraries closed in response to the COVID 19 outbreak in March we immediately started creating a comprehensive digital offer.

All our sessions are delivered by either our Young Persons Services team or our Programme Development team. Our Young Persons team focuses on Bookbug sessions, Storytimes and Crafternoons. Meanwhile our Programme Development team work on our popular Techy Teabreaks sessions, craft activities and mental health supports. Both teams regularly post on social media to keep everyone up-to-date with what’s happening.

Our website is updated on a regular basis and our social media profiles are more active, with a full schedule of events including live events on Facebook.

Providing for Families

Librarian Katharine McFarlane getting ready for a Bookbug sessionLooking specifically at family library members, we have tried to ensure we are providing a varied online offer. This includes Bi-weekly ‘live’ Bookbug sessions streamed via Facebook with a link to an online story. Our Monday sessions also include Makaton. Sessions are available to view anytime via Videos link on the Inverclyde libraries Facebook Page

We have also started weekly Crafternoon sessions which feature easy arts & crafts projects on themes which link to an associated book or Authors on Demand Sessions. We distribute the Crafternoon schedule to Early Learning Centres and Primary teachers in the Local Authority to enable links with suitable topic areas.

Throughout this year we have also established a good working relationship with Lockdown Comics (in partnership with Magic Torch Comics). Lockdown Comics creates comics based on the lived experiences, thoughts and dreams of marginalised young people. Through funding from the Outside The Box National Lottery Community Fund we hope to create a Lockdown Comic later this year.

For young adults our new online book group is proving popular. This is a space for Inverclyde’s young people aged 13-16 to come together to read and discuss books. Facilitated by the Inverclyde Libraries Outreach Librarian, all the books discussed are available on Borrowbox, which is accessible to anyone with a library membership. 

We were also very aware of our families who were digitally excluded and have worked closely with our partners in Education and Barnardo’s to ensure Family Book & Activity Bags, Summer Reading Challenge Bags and Book Boxes were created and distributed throughout the area. Our Books on Wheels service was also extended to the housebound, over 75s and shielding Inverclyde residents.

Adult Online Library Services

Librarian William Henderson working on a Inverclyde's Techy Tea Break session.For adults we created some innovative new online services to ensure customers had the support they needed. This includes our popular Techy Tea Break – a series which features every Tuesday and Thursday at 1pm on Facebook and Twitter

The feature consists of short videos demonstrating some of the tools and features available on mobile devices to help people stay connected and get the most from their devices. This includes the use of accessibility tools for those with visual impairment. Topics range from organising apps into folders to exploring the Zoom app for video calling for both Apple and Android devices.

Techy Tea Break sessions are an online continuation of the 30-minute drop-in Device Advice sessions that the library service offers as part of our Learning Offer. These sessions are learner led and the topics for the Techy Tea Break videos have been chosen to address the questions that we regularly get asked at these sessions.

Videos are also open to being learner led and we would respond to any requests for a particular topic to be covered. The videos themselves are always under two minutes and twenty seconds to ensure they fit in with the fleeting nature of browsing social media, and this also ensures that the videos are direct and to the point. It has been a priority to ensure that the videos are as accessible as possible to all of our users so consideration is always taken in the narration of the videos and each video is available with subtitles added.

We have also created a series of new online groups to encourage connection and participation. This includes a book group called #ILOnlineBookGroup which takes place every three weeks on Twitter and encourages reader development and connection with others through discussion. Our Read and Recommend group meanwhile is Facebook based and invites participants to read books and recommend to others on a theme provided by Inverclyde Libraries.

Finally our Chatty Café posts engages with library users interested in some of the activities and themes our Chatty Café groups usually discuss in libraries. Links are posted three times per week and signpost people to craft, reminiscence and gardening websites.

Analysing the Results

Our increased electronic offer increased e-Lending by 62% in the first two months of lockdown with 32% more active borrowers on Borrowbox . Our Facebook visits (not likes!) were up by 100% in the month of April and we have strengthened our partnerships with local agencies such as Barnardo’s and the Attainment Challenge team.

We know that public libraries have been missed. Not all our customers have internet access and so we quickly adapted our delivery services to support those over 75, families and people shielding.

We have had positive feedback from families who relied on virtual Storytimes and Crafternoons; students who kept studying thanks to the online resources and techy support from the teabreaks.  We hope that by capturing stories of how library services have adapted it shows the need for public libraries to be viewed as essential community services.  

Our aim is to emerge from the pandemic adapted but stronger.