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I realize that reading is not a life or death matter, but it is important, and libraries provide vital services to communities. Reading does indeed improve the quality of life, and I know that reading is a necessary part of many of your lives, like it is for mine. However, many libraries are closed to the general public, and that has forced many people to change their reading habits. But there are still many ways to access books, and this is a perfect time to try out some new ways of reading. Here are 7 ways to access books during this pandemic.

  1. Curbside pick-up or delivery:  Although most libraries are closed to the general public, they are offering curbside pick-up and other methods of getting you the books you want. Call, email, or go to your local library's website to find out what services they are offering. If you can't get to the building to pick-up books, simply ask them if they'll mail books to you. In all likelihood, they will. Many libraries are also forgiving past fines because they want to make sure everyone is able to access books throughout the pandemic.
  2. Digital Collections, such as Libby, Overdrive, or RBDigital  The North Dakota State Library and most local libraries provide access to e-books and audiobooks through an online library such as Libby, Overdrive, or RBDigital. Because libraries can pool their money to buy e-books, the collections are often bigger and more current than a library's print collection. Another plus is that you can borrow books at any time, day or night, no matter where you are or what time it is, from your computer or personal device. 
  3. Talking Books & BARD  North Dakota's Talking Book library is a favorite of many of NDVS/SB's clients. They are still sending out digital players and books on cartridges for people who prefer that, or you can download your own books from the BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) website. To sign up for BARD, you just need to contact the staff at the ND Talking Book Department (tbooks@nd.gov; 701-328-1408) so they can register you. You can also call them (or me, or any of NDVS/SB's Adult Outreach Coordinators) to find out how to register for Talking Books.
  4. Audible & other audiobook sources  For a monthly fee, you can access thousands of audiobooks on Audible. Because it's an Amazon company, there are some additional benefits for Amazon Prime members. If you are someone who does not like to wait for the library's most popular titles or for the library to add the newest titles, Audible or other subscription-based services (Scribd, Kindle Unlimited, etc.) may be your best bet.
  5. Bookshare.org  Anyone with a reading barrier (visual impairments, physical disabilities, dyslexia, learning disabilities, etc.) can sign up for Bookshare's library. It is free for students, and the $50 yearly fee for adults is worth the price for anyone who wants easy access to books that can be read visually, listened to, or accessed via a braille device. I also like that you can request books be added to their collection, and they will notify you when that book is available. 
  6. Project Gutenberg  There are over 60,000 free e-books available from Project Gutenberg, but keep in mind they are all books for which the U.S. copyright has expired. But if you enjoy reading classics, check out this site. 

Finally, utilize the Vision Resource Center! The library at NDVS/SB is small but mighty. You can search our collection by going to North Dakota Vision Resource Center (odinlibrary.org) If you find something you'd like to check out, contact me at estenber@nd.gov or 701-795-2709. I'd be happy to mail them to you.

There are many other ways to access books and other reading materials in today's digital world. But I hope that this list inspires you to try at least one new way of reading. You may even find a new favorite book or author due to COVID-19!
I'd also like to invite you to join NDAB's new Book Club, which will kick off in January. I am excited to be a part of it and hope that you will join us. Contact me (estenber@nd.gov; 701-795-2709) or Trampes Brown(trampes@independencecil.org) for more information.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!
Emily Stenberg

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