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Working from home? Kids at home? The library is here for you! We’ve got virtual resources galore to help you keep a healthy social distance during the coronavirus outbreak. Attend virtual story time every day at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., or join our virtual Dungeons & Dragons for teens. You can also read the latest newspapers and magazines online for free, and learn from home, whether you’re a kid or an adult!

Want to read more about the topics brought up in this episode? Check out the following links:

Episode Transcript

Sheneatha Frison Hello! Welcome to virtual story time at Brooklyn Public Library! I’m Sheneatha and I’m a school outreach librarian here and I’m so excited to share a story time here with you. How about we start with an opening song? It goes like this: [Singing] If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands! If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands!

Adwoa Adusei That’s Sheneatha Frison, a children’s librarian, doing something she’s done for many years … running library story time. The only difference is this one is happening on Facebook Live!

Sheneatha Frison Yes, we did have friends tune in! And some people were commenting while I was telling the story, which was really exciting to me because it reminds me, oh, people really are interacting on social media! So to be able to use social media for something that’s so positive really makes me excited. [Singing] If you’re ready for a story, say “I’m ready!”

Krissa Corbett Cavouras As of now, all branches of the three library systems in New York City—that’s Brooklyn Public Library, Queens Public Library and New York Public Library— they’re all closed until the end of March because we are experiencing a corona virus (Covid-19) outbreak in New York, and this was the best way we could think to keep our communities safe. That said, a lot of libraries around the country are ramping up their digital offerings, and Brooklyn is no exception. 

Sheneatha Frison Now, a lot of our friends are staying in more because we’re trying to prevent the spread of the corona virus. So, this is a great opportunity to help friends to continue to enjoy the joy of reading while staying healthy.

Sheneatha Frison, school outreach librarian at BPL, prepares to 
do her first virtual story time!
(Jennifer Proffitt, Brooklyn Public Library)

Adwoa Adusei I also just say just to our own BPL workers a huge thank you, and that you have our appreciation and admiration. There are so many staff that are still going to our branches to keep things in working order while the buildings are closed to the public. That includes cleaning and hanging up signs. So, to our public safety officers and our custodial staff, we really appreciate you. And, just in general, I want to give a big shoutout to all library workers everywhere during this pandemic.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras Yeah, that’s absolutely true. Our own librarians, as soon as they found out we were closed, jumped right in to start creating virtual programming, not just with story times but a bunch of other things that we hadn’t even thought of. So, getting this virtual story telling up and running today, by the end of this week we’re going to have a whole bunch more stuff going on that patrons can connect with. And, the thing that I thought was really sweet … the virtual story time is still going to be happening at 11 a.m. because librarians are going to miss those kiddos running in the door at eleven, as they always do. So they decided, we’re going to stick to eleven. And for some of the branches it’s going to happen twice a day. So you’re going to be able to check out all of the virtual programming on our website and we’re going to put a link to that in our show notes. 


Adwoa Adusei And Krissa, we should acknowledge that our voices sound a little bit different today, don’t they?

Krissa Corbett Cavouras Yes, so we are calling each other remotely and recording it remotely. A lot of New Yorkers are right now using technologies in ways that are not used to doing every day just to keep people safe and to keep themselves safe. So, we’re talking to each other on the phone! I’m not sitting across from a table from Adwoa, like we usually are. I’m at home, and so is my toddler. So we actually had to delay recording this for about half an hour while my toddler figured out what he was going to sing for his nap time lullabies in his crib. And I did a little recording and we’re going to play it for you right now. Just some audio delight … 

[Toddler singing “The Wheels on the Bus”… ]

Adwoa Adusei Super adorable. You know, it’s always good to have variety in the nap time lineup. [laughs] And because we know a lot of you are staying home or entertaining kids who are out of school, we’re going to spend this episode talking about how you can access free library resources at home. New Yorkers we haven't abandoned you! As Krissa said, continue to visit our website, and check out online calendar for all of the virtual programs and all of our digital resources. 

Krissa Corbett Cavouras Yeah and you can check out ebooks wherever you are, as long as you have internet connection and a smart phone. We partner with Libby, which is one of our favorite apps for ebooks, and also cloudLibrary. Both of them are essentially passing through your library card information and giving you a huge wealth of ebooks and eaudio. All you need is your bar code and your pin, and everything that you want to read can probably be found there. And, we know that ebooks can be a little tricky if you’ve not used them before, so I also want to say, as part of the marketing team, you can add us on social media and we will help you figure it out. You can also call our call center at 718.YOUR.BPL or 718.968.7275. We’re going to help you get your ebooks on your phone or on your Kindle. 

Adwoa Adusei And if you’re looking for books to read that put the coronavirus outbreak in context, Emma Carbone, one of our YA librarians, made a BookMatch list on that very topic. Our producer Virginia spoke to her earlier. And just be sure to check out Libby or cloudLibrary to see if those titles are available. And if all else fails, show some love to your local bookstore. Check in with them and see if they’re doing any deliveries.

Virginia Marshall Thanks so much for coming in, Emma. And I hear you’ve put together a book list on putting the Covid-19 outbreak in context. 

Emma Carbone Yes. So I put together a list with some children’s, young adult and adult nonfiction titles. So, if you have younger children in your life and are looking for an interractive read, Do Not Lick This Book is a little harrowing because it’s all about germs, which is a lot right now. But it’s also a really interesting way to introduce the idea of germs and touching shared objects with a look at the world through the eyes of Min the microbe. And also it’s very interactive, sort of like Press Here by Hervé Tullet. So it has a lot of elements to engage with in addition to this important issue. Like, if you’re sharing an object, don’t lick it even if you might really want to. Some good common sense advice. 

Virginia Marshall That’s a great book, thank you. 

Emma Carbone And then also I think it’s really important with the way this coronavirus is spreading and how it’s not really tied to any specific population, it’s important to just have some mindfulness about how you’re engaging with other people. So, Terrible Typhoid Mary by Susan Campbell Bartoletti is another interesting one. It tells the story of Mary Malin who is more widely known as Typhoid Mary and supposedly patient zero for this typhoid outbreak. But that may not actually be the case. So Bartoletti explores if Mary actually existed and looked at her in historical context but also how because of her position in society as a working class woman and a woman in general at the time, she was positioned to be a scape goat for a lot of this stuff that had very little to do with her and was more of a societal issue as this outbreak began to spread.

Virginia Marshall That’s really interesting. I actually didn’t know that Typhoid Mary maybe wasn’t the cause of that disease. 

Emma Carbone Yeah so, definitely there’s a lot to find on this list. But the other thing I would recommend is Fever Year: The Killer Flu of 1918 by Don Brown, which is a graphic novel exploring what created the pandemic situation in 1918 and why it was so deadly. And also explores how modern science can contextualize that moment. And I think that contrast, particularly while we’re facing our own pandemic moment is really valuable to keep in mind and explore further.

Virginia Marshall And while we know that not everyone will want to read about historical pandemic, some people will be curious and it will help them put this current virus in context. I also wanted to know, is there a feel-good book you always return to when you’re stressed or in a time of stress?

Emma Carbone Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I read it as a print book but I’ve also heard great things about the audio if anyone wants to request that from the library. It has a full cast production, which is unusual. And the book follows the meteoric rise and sudden fall of the band Daisy Jones & The Six. And it’s written in a transcript format as an oral history, with all the characters. And also for any music lovers out there, it’s inspired by the true story behind the band Fleetwood Mac and the production of their album, Rumors.

Virginia Marshall Nice. My favorite book that I read when I’m stressed out is Calvin and Hobbes, so that’s also accessible to very young readers, and I checked and you can check out a lot of them from BPL. BPL has a lot of those comics.

Emma Carbone They’re very popular. 

Virginia Marshall Nice. Well thank you so much, Emma. I really appreciate you coming in today.

Emma Carbone Thank you for having me, and I hope these books are helpful recommendations for people.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras I like that last question — the feel-good read. It’s a stressful time out there. So, Adwoa, do you have a particular book you turn to when you’re stressed?

Adwoa Adusei So I don’t know if I have a particular stress read. I mean, I tend to do other things to de-stress. But as I was looking at my home library, the book that made me chuckle and remember good times was The Adrian Mole Diaries by Sue Townsend. I read that like a bunch when I was a teen and obviously very angsty, and often at home, because I didn’t have much of a social life. The Adrian Mole Diaries by Sue Townsend. Krissa, how about you?

Krissa Corbett Cavouras I like that you went down to the YA for the comfort food. So I also would never have said before this weekend that I had “a comfort read.” But I did have so much time on my computer this weekend because we were in crisis comms mode, that on Sunday night I really just needed like words on a page, and to throw my phone across the bedroom. And I walked to the shelf and I found this gorgeous copy of Here is New York by E.B. White, which my husband gave me I think when we got married. And I’m not even kidding, I think that I flipped to a page where he talks about pandemic which was a little bit … I was not expecting to be thinking about it. But he said, “Mass hysteria is a terrible force, yet New Yorkers seem always to escape it by some tiny margin. They sit in stalled subways without claustrophobia. They extricate themselves from panic situations by some lucky wisecrack. And they meet confusion and congestion with patience and grit.” I just was like, oh, okay, E.B. White says this is going to be fine. I mean, I’m still isolating in my house, but it’s nice to know that we’re going to come through this with a modicum of grace and grit, so that’s what I did.

Feel-good reads from BPL staff to get you through this era of social distancing.

Adwoa Adusei That’s really funny. Actually, when I opened the book on page three of the book, Adrian’s talking about how his mother just got the flu and how that means he’s going to have to look after both his mother and his grandfather and he’s like “just my luck…” So I was like, okay, yeah. This is good. And it’s like little diary entries, which is perfect for times of reflection, as these are going to be.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras So true. 


Adwoa Adusei Okay, so we just covered checking out books from home … but there are lots of other resources you can access without ever visiting a library branch, right Krissa?

K​​​​​​Krissa Corbett Cavouras Yes, which on normal days is not something we encourage. We want you to come to our branch. But we have been hard at work on the marketing team in particular, putting together a list of some of our favorite online resources and databases and services. So, two of my favorites that I want to mention: the first one is Pressreader, which lets you access all of today’s newspapers from around the world and a lot of that still could be behind a paywall, Pressreader will get you there the day that it’s publised. And another one that I think is great is Flipster. There are a ton of magazines in Flipster. There’s Rolling Stone and People magazine if you just want nonesense escape into the world. I’m pretty sure The New Yorker is in there, which is always behind a paywall. There are a ton of magazines in Flipster, which is great. 

Adwoa Adusei And, if you’re a teen or if you’re still in school, you can also access free practice tests online with your library card … I know, I know, super fun. But you can practice the SAT or the TASC exam, which is the high school equivalency test. And if you have a kid in elementary or middle school, they can practice for standardized tests, too, while they’re stuck at home. All of those practice exams are on a free resource called Learning Express Library.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras And we also have Mometrix, which is an eReader app that lets you have study guides for all those tests. So even before you need to start taking practice tests, we’ve got study guides you can look at on the computer or on an eReader, which is great. So all of those things that Adwoa and I are talking about: Mometrix, Learning Express Library, Pressreader for newspapers, Flipster for magazines … all of that is on our website, and we’re going to put links to some of our favorites in the show notes. And there are dozens more. All you need is your library card number and pin and there you are, off to the races.

Adwoa Adusei So, we’ve covered virtual resources and programming for babies, kids, teens, adults … but what about older adults? Listeners might have a parent or grandparent who is at greater risk of getting sick because of their age or medical condition. They might be at home, looking for things to do, but might not be able to use the internet or read e-books.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras The library has a service for that population, too. It’s called Books By Mail, and all three New York City library systems have this service. Your loved one can pick up the phone or a pen or pencil and fill out a form to request books that will be sent to them in the mail. We don’t just do books, either. We do audiobooks, large print, or even DVDs.

Adwoa Adusei It’s an amazing service specifically for people who are homebound because of age or disability, and actually, in our very first episode, we talked about that service at Brooklyn Public Library. So we’re going to play a section from that episode now.

Judith Blaise We have approximately I would say, maybe ten, fifteen regulars that call regularly. Some, you don’t understand what they’re saying because of whatever illness they may have had that caused their speech to slur… usually they give it to me, because I decipher the voices and what they're saying.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras Judith Blaise coordinates the Books By Mail and Books to Go services. She sits at a desk covered in letters from patrons. Sometimes the letter is a request for latest James Patterson novel, or it’s a newspaper clipping for a political history book the patron wants to read.

Felice Belle A good portion of Judith’s day is spent on the phone, talking to patrons. Usually it’s about a book they want to read, or an interesting fact they came across in a book. But sometimes, the phone call is more personal.

Judith Blaise Some just tell us, "it’s my birthday." [LAUGHS] "I just want to say it's my birthday, I’m ninety-nine years old." And you're like, "Oh my gosh, you're ninety-nine, congrats!" And they get excited, and you send them a little card or something and they enjoy it.

Felice Belle Most of the patrons that use Books by Mail are homebound—by Judith’s count, the ages range from 17 to 104.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras But it’s not just about the books. Judith says a big part of the service for some of her regulars is the personal interaction over the phone.

Judith Blaise The biggest difference is you don’t see their faces, but you can hear in their voices the urgency of whatever it is they’re looking for. I would get calls for—"I want to know more about Alzheimer's. Not that I have it, I just want more information about it." You know that they're going through some kind of trauma, and as much information as you can get them on that topic, they would appreciate it. And they’ll end up personalizing—"Well, I know someone who’s going through it." And it’s just the conversation, it’s the ability to be able to relate to somebody or to help somebody, which is basically what a librarian does, is you help the patrons.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras Judith’s small team of librarians in the basement of New Utrecht Library preside over the biggest collection of large print books in the BPL system. There are audio books, too, and movies. Since most of their patrons are seniors at home or at senior centers around Brooklyn, Judith and her team try to order books and movies they thinks seniors will enjoy, in the format that is going to be the most accessible to them. But sometimes, the patrons surprise them.

Judith Blaise When Fifty Shades came out, I didnt think I would get requests so I passed on purchasing both the book, and when the movie came out, I passed on it. And then the calls started coming in, and they were hushed… "Do you have that book Fifty Shades?" And I'd go, "Why do you want the book?" "Listen I lived, been there, done that... I just want to know what the book is about." And then all of a sudden there was an onslaught—"Do you have it in large print? Can I get the large print version?" And it made me go, wait a minute. I had to think… they lived! [Laughs] Why do I think they didnt have that life before? It’s not new.

Felice Belle For Judith, book circulation is intensely personal. Having a book in your hands for free, from anywhere in the library system is not something she takes lightly.

Judith Blaise This world can be a little cruel towards seniors. So if I can give them what they enjoy, and if it’s in a book, an escape from where they are, I’m going to do it. And hopefully when I get older, somebody will think of me that way and do the same for me. That’s one of my biggest motivations, just being able to help somebody else, in hopes that later on down the line, it was worth it.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras That was our former co-host, Felice Belle, and me, back in March of 2019 when we launched the podcast. And Books By Mail is still going strong! I will say, thanks to the outbreak, it might take a minute for Judy and her team to get back to the desk to send more books out, but if we know them they are dedicated. So, we’re still going to put a link to that resource in our show notes and that’s a reminder that this is for older folks who are homebound because of medical conditions, so make sure you or your loved one fits into that category before applying for the service, particularly now.

Adwoa Adusei Hey, Krissa.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras Yeah?

Adwoa Adusei You know what else you can do while you’re at home? 

Krissa Corbett Cavouras No, tell me.

Adwoa Adusei You can fill out the census!

Jeffrey Wice The census starts this week. Every household will receive a census mailer.

Adwoa Adusei That’s Jeffrey Wice, an adjunct professor at New York law school and head of the New York Census and Redistricting Institute. He’s been working with the public libraries in New York City as well as about 200 other community organizations on New York Counts 2020, 

Jeffrey Wice We’re asked to open the envelope, read it, you'll see a twelve-digit unique code, a twelve-digit number assigned to your household. Go to a census website or go to the telephone and respond as soon as you can. Because early direct response from each household is quick, it's accurate, it avoids delays, especially if coronavirus or other things come into play. We want to make sure people are counted early, are counted once, and are counted accurately.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras That’s right. This is not just cabin fever talking. This is really exciting. You can go fill out your census right now! Log on to 2020 census [dot] gov to start the process. It only takes only 10 minutes. And in two weeks we’re going to have a whole episode on the importance of the 2020 census, how libraries are involved, and how you can help spread the word.


Krissa Corbett Cavouras And there are so many more online resources you can access with our library card. Two others we want to mention are Mango languages, which helps you learn a new language. There are 72 different languages and another resource called “Little Pim” so your kids can learn a new language at home, too!

Adwoa Adusei And one more plug: BPL library card holders can also access Lynda [dot] com … it has thousands of tutorials on learning new digital skills, like audio editing programs if you want to make a podcast, or learning graphic design tools and coding and just a ton of cool stuff.


Adwoa Adusei Borrowed is brought to you by Brooklyn Public Library and is hosted by me, Adwoa Adusei and Krissa Corbett Cavouras. You can find a transcript of this episode at our website, B-K-L-Y-N Library [dot] org [slash] podcasts.

​​​​​​​Krissa Corbett Cavouras Borrowed is produced and written by Virginia Marshall with help from Fritzi Bodenheimer, Jennifer Proffitt, Meryl Friedman and Robin Lester Kenton. Our music composer is Billy Libby.  

Adwoa Adusei Borrowed will be back in two weeks. Until then, find us online, wash your hands, and be well.

Krissa Corbett Cavouras And don’t touch your face!

Adwoa Adusei And practice social distancing!



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