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Libraries are closed, but they’re still offering a vast selection of free entertainment and education

Did you know you can access electronic and audiobooks, international newspapers, and movies through a public library?

Libby lets library card holders access ebooks and audiobooks for freeHandout

Even with libraries closed temporarily, your local library card gives you access to much more than you may know — dozens of online resources from movies to electronic books and audiobooks, newspapers from across the world, and language instruction. And if you’re reading this and thinking, “I wish I had a library card,” you’re in luck. The libraries mentioned here, and others, offer E-cards; you can sign up for one on their websites. (Note that not all library systems offer all of these resources; check your local library’s website for details.) Here are some of local librarians’ favorite services.

  • Libby — This app lets library patrons stream and download ebooks and audiobooks. Alison Mitchell of the Somerville Public Library has used it during her daily walks to listen to a book by Dana Stabenow. “She writes these mysteries that take place in the wilderness in Alaska,” Mitchell said. "So it’s like total escapism.”
  • Hoopla — Another option for streaming and downloading ebooks and audiobooks, Hoopla offers something additional and unique: comic books. “Every once in a while, you want something light and fun, and maybe nostalgic,” said Will Adamczyk of the Milton Public Library. “It’s got your Batman and Superman, and it’s got your Marvel stuff in there, too.” Movies, TV shows, and music are also available.
Library users can stream movies for free with KanopyHandout
  • Kanopy — This service allows you to stream documentaries, foreign films, and other movies on your devices. “Before coronavirus, we’d have people who came into the library to get a library card specifically so they could access the video content on Kanopy,” Mitchell said.
  • Shelf-Service — Available to Boston Public Library and Metro Boston Library Network cardholders, Shelf-Service gives you personalized book recommendations based on your answers to questions about your favorite genres and books. While libraries are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shelf-Service recommendations are limited to electronic and audiobooks. “Some people, with all the stress of everything that’s happening, are looking for a very particular type of escape,” said Melissa Andrews of the Boston Public Library.
  • Pronunciator — Like many language learning services out there, Pronunciator offers lessons by skill level. “If you want to brush up on something that you learned in college, or if you just want to spend some time every day learning a new language, using Pronunciator is a way to kill some time during the day,” said Adamczyk. The Milton Public Library is one of several libraries that offer Pronunciator access from its own website.
  • PressReader — To see how news outlets from Chicago to Shanghai are reporting on the pandemic and other topics, try this service. Andrews likes PressReader because it offers full-page magazines and newspapers from the United States and the world. Access it through the Boston Public Library, the Public Library of Brookline, and other local libraries’ sites
  • Ancestry — Could there be a better time to brush up on family history than when you’re hunkered down with your loved ones? “They have lots of records in there, immigration and naturalization records, Census records from 1790 to 1940, and also vital records dating all the way back to the Colonial era,” Andrews said. Access is available from the Boston Public Library website during its closure.