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Middletown library offers thousands of e-books online; science fiction club thrives despite closure

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By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

and Jason Maddux

jasonmaddux@pressandjournal.com

So what do you do in Middletown if you are finished reading the book you borrowed and now you have nothing else to read?

No need to break into a cold sweat. Middletown Public Library cardholders can still get e-books and e-audiobooks through Overdrive at https://capitalarealibrary.overdrive.com/

This week, the library added more than 4,000 new e-book titles. It is called the Duke Classic series and includes things such as all the classic Sherlock Holmes stories, the works of Charles Dickens, Frankenstein books and the works of Jules Verne.

“And the best part is that they are multi-use licenses, so no matter how many people take out the same e-book, you’ll be able to get it instantly,” Middletown Public Library director John Grayshaw told the Press & Journal via email on Thursday.

Grayshaw said that because of the coronavirus pandemic, the library hasn’t been able to offer its free tax prep courses on Monday nights through the United Way, or programs for children such as Storytime, Reading to the Dogs, STEM Club, and LEGOs.

“I feel very badly that people haven’t been able to use all our services. I’m sure a good book or a DVD would be appreciated even more during this time when most people are staying close to home. And it is also a shame that folks haven’t had access to our public computers, I know many people rely on our computers to get on the internet. Even something as simple as not being able to get their federal or local tax forms that we have in our lobby is certainly a frustration,” he said.

Other services the library offers are available through its website, info@middletownpubliclib.org. You can access the library’s card catalog and place items on hold for when the library will reopen.

You can access the library’s various databases through the website, and also spend some time educating yourself on the history of Middletown through articles the library has posted.

If you have a reference question, email it to the library at info@middletownpubliclib.org.

Grayshaw is answering the info@middletownpubliclib.org email and has heard from some patrons who have been very thankful that someone was able to get back to them so quickly, he said.

The library’s book drop in front of the library on Catherine Street is still being checked at least once a day so you can return your book.

“I’ve been the one checking the dropbox each day, and I can’t believe how many books we have out at any given time. The library has been closed since the 16th, and there were still over 60 books in the dropbox yesterday, and that’s just one day’s worth,” he said.

The library requests you not return DVDs or audiobooks until the library reopens. These items can get damaged in the book drop. There will not be late fees charged for overdue items during the closure.

If you are a science fiction fan, as Grayshaw is, you can join the library’s science fiction book club on Facebook by going to  https://www.facebook.com/groups/sciencefictionbookclub/.

It has had 60 people join it this past week alone — double the number of usual new members for a week.

“And the group has been very active. Lots of folks seem glued to their phones or computers. Usually if I tag someone on Facebook, they’re likely to see it sometime that day. These past weeks, people seem to usually see it instantly,” he said.

Gov. Tom Wolf this week extended the closure of Pennsylvania’s libraries from March 28 through at least April 6 to lessen public contact and slow the coronavirus’ spread.

“I think the library is one of the cultural/educational hubs of the town. And I know it is necessary for us to be closed to help minimize the spread of COVID-19, but I look forward to when we can get back and offer all of our services again for the people of Middletown and surrounding areas,” he said.

As far as getting ready when the time comes to open: “We had been doing extra cleaning and wiping down of books, surfaces, keyboards, door handles, etc., before the library closed and will continue to do that when we reopen. The library has a cleaning service which cleans the library top to bottom, and they have continued to do that while we are closed.”

Hummelstown library

While Dauphin County Library System’s branches remain closed, adults and children can find books, music, movies and other items online at www.dcls.org.

The William H. & Marion C. Alexander Family Library, 200 W. Second St., Hummelstown, is part of the county library system.

Members should keep checked-out materials until library relocations re-open.

The library is also maintaining a webpage with the latest on the COVID-19 outbreak at www.dcls.org/coronavirus. The page includes information on the spread of the virus in Pennsylvania, current statistics, tips on preventing the spread and treatment and useful links.

“We want to assure members that there will be time after we re-open to return materials without any late fees,’’ said Karen Cullings, library system executive director. “Additionally, all items on hold that were ready for pickup will be available when we resume normal operations.’’

Cullings encouraged the public to explore the full range of databases, eBooks, eAudiobooks, streaming music and movies available online. Users need a library card for access, and Dauphin County residents can get an online access card for free by visiting www.dcls.org/getcarded.

Many of the databases and other materials might be helpful for students working at home.

In addition to the website, members can find information on programs and tips on interesting books and more at www.facebook.com/DCLS.PA.

Cullings said after the branches reopen, enhanced cleaning precautions will remain.

“Before the state-ordered closure, our staff was frequently disinfecting all surfaces, returned items and more,’’ Cullings said. “All libraries will get a thorough cleaning before we re-open, and extra sanitizing precautions will continue for as long as the coronavirus threat remains.’’

Getting a card is free. Register online at dcls.org.