LIKE many organisations, the team at Wentworth Shire Libraries needed to look for new and innovative solutions to continue serving their community during the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdown measures.

Directed to close their doors to the public on March 20, the team had to look for alternative ways to stay in touch with their community. This included developing a different vision of services and using technology in new and innovative ways.

The library now offers a ‘Click & Collect’ contactless pick-up service, as well as free home delivery of library items to vulnerable or isolated members of the community.

Popular programs such as Book Clubs and Toddler Story Time have been moved online.

Library Officer, Gabrielle Murphy records weekly story time sessions and posts them online. Stories, rhymes, songs and even craft ideas make the sessions fun and engaging. Families have reported that the children love seeing Gabrielle each week. Familiar faces and routines are reassuring in this time of uncertainty.

Last week the library launched its own app, available free for all smartphones and tablets. Developed in collaboration with SOLUS, the app provides a one-stop shop for all of the library services. SOLUS is a leading library technology company and their award-winning mobile app is used and enjoyed by over 200 councils throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Team Leader, Library Services, Emma Holgate, said, the team approached SOLUS and asked if they could fast-track the app in response to the shutdown.

“They agreed and together we achieved it in under 4 weeks,” Ms Holgate said.

“Once a library member downloads the Wentworth Shire Libraries app, they can access the library from anywhere. They can explore the catalogue, discover our range of eBooks and eAudiobooks, and keep up to date with library news and events.”

The app also provides access to online resources such as StoryBox Library for children, RBDigital for eMagazines, the HAYNES range of car and motorbike workshop manuals as well as science and history databases.

The mobile app has deep integration with the Library Management System (Libero) which delivers the best user experience for library members. Members are able to log in to their account and other linked accounts (such as their children’s accounts) and have full visibility over their loans and reservations. They can extend loans and add/cancel reservations remotely from anywhere.

Although the pandemic has been challenging for the whole community, Ms Holgate also noted that it has been heartening to see the collaboration and innovation which has resulted.

“We’ve felt connected with other public libraries via the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), NSW State Library and NSW Public Libraries Association and have received support and advice from all over Australia. It’s been great to share ideas,” she said.

Wentworth Shire Mayor Melisa Hederics is encouraging the community to stay connected during this time of isolation.

“Our libraries are being very proactive in using technology to connect Council with the community,” she said. “We want people to know that even though our doors are closed, we are here to help.”