BRICK – Today’s library is not the same as the libraries of yesteryear, which were simply set up as a means of lending books to the public.
“It’s a community center,” said the Brick Branch manager Taya Petino. “We are here to serve the community, and the library offers programs that run the gamut from cradle to senior.”
Like so much of the country, the Ocean County Library closed during the pandemic, and attendance was down when the doors reopened, but it’s rebounding at all the branches, said Sherri Taliercio, who is the acting librarian of public relations.
The library has a goal of getting a library card for every child in Ocean County, which is going very well, Petino said. The library does a lot of outreach in the community to support the schools, she added.
“We go to every school and we promote the library, we do book discussions, and for the teachers we do instruction on some of the 100 databases we have,” she said.
“We have so many resources that cross-promote with the schools so well,” added Taliercio.
“There is a landing page on the Ocean County Library website that gives teachers, educators and students links to information that is beneficial to them,” she said.
“I think a lot of the teachers, unfortunately, still don’t know that we offer all these databases and resources, even online, and our librarians are always here to give book recommendations based on whatever subject that they’re teaching,” Taliercio said.
Some of the online databases include a variety of newspapers; a tutoring database for kids called “Brainfuse;” “Novelist,” which helps readers find similar books based on an author they like; and ebooks, which are books online.
“The good thing about ebooks is that you don’t have to remember to return it, you’re not going to lose the book – it goes back automatically,” said Petino. “There are some times where you have to wait for a book, just like any other book…and when it becomes available, they notify you.”
The library also offers audio books that can be borrowed through the branch’s digital resources, which also includes television series and movies. Card holders can borrow video games and Playaways, which are preloaded MP3 players, about the size of a cell phone, that you can plug into and listen to a book.
Other databases include “Freegal,” to download music, and everything is free. Patrons can borrow any combination of up to 30 items at a time.
“All you need is your library card,” Petino said. “There are so many great things you can access through your computer or through your phone.”
People still come to the library in person to use computers (Brick has about 30 computers available), for performances, meetings, classes, crafting, mahjong, to use the quiet study room, and more. For a small fee, copiers and printers are available, as well as scanners and fax machines.
During the four months the library was shut down after COVID, Taliercio said the pandemic catapulted the staff into creating virtual programming, which got a good response.
“We put out a call to any staff who would be willing to do something virtually, whether it be book suggestions, that kind of thing, and we got a really good response from staff,” she said.
“Everyone contributed in a way to let people know our physical doors aren’t open, but our virtual doors are,” Taliercio said. “There are still so many things you can do through our website and our virtual services, like the databases and the ebooks.”
During the months the branches were closed, the children’s librarians did virtual storytime on the library’s YouTube channel, as well as musical programs for adults, Zoom programs, and more.
Every branch of the Ocean County Library has a fundraising group called “Friends of the Library,” which helps support programming, upkeep of the buildings and other things.
“It’s not your grandma’s library where you had to ‘shhh’ all the time – it’s not like that anymore,” Petino said. “It’s a different type of place – there’s always a lot going on.”
To learn about the many programs and activities, visit theoceancountylibrary.org and click on the Brick branch.