Virtual library provides online reading resources

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As more people gain access to technological devices and the Internet, online resources are more frequently used. With the recent outbreak of the coronavirus, schools have closed down and learning has become more independent, causing students to face the challenge of relying on online resources to help them learn. 

For Townsend Harris High School students, the closing of school meant that they would no longer have access to certain resources like Queens College databases that would otherwise be available to them at school. With the help of school librarian Arlene Laverde, THHS’ first Virtual Library successfully opened for students on March 22. 

“There are databases that are available to THHS [students] from home and they can be accessed through the school website on the library page under the link THHS databases. There are over forty databases there,” Ms. Laverde explained. 

Furthermore, since there are so many students with different needs, they are given access to a wide range of books. “If students need access to more research materials, they can use [the online] New York, Queens or Brooklyn public [libraries]. There are a lot more resources available online as well. I shared a couple of databases where students can get access to manga and graphic novels,” Ms. Laverde continued. As for those who don’t already have access to a library card, Ms. Laverde has sent emails with video tutorials guiding students through the process of getting an ecard. 

Students that used the online reading resources commented on the availability of options that the virtual library had to offer. Freshman Emily Lu said, “I like how accessible it is, the amount of options available and how easy it is to use…. It has different kinds of books like audiobooks, and ebooks which the library in school doesn’t have.” 

This wide variety of options allows “students to use these reading resources to study, entertain themselves while in quarantine, or read something that will help them relax in these difficult times,” Emily continued. “[These resources] are a great source of entertainment for me as I love reading but can’t go to the library at this time to borrow new books.”  

Senior Kayla Seepersad said, “I usually just use [the virtual library] in my free time.” By bringing these online options to the students’ attention, Mrs. Laverde said, “I hope that our students will realize [that] there are a lot of great resources online that will help them academically as well as keep them entertained. Students today really have grown up with a device in their hand but fall into the rabbit hole of social media, Google, and Wikipedia. I am not saying those things are bad, but there are so many other resources that our kids forget about.” 

Since THHS’ first virtual library has only been running for a few weeks, some students offered their opinion on what they would like to see in the future. “I would like more research books. Possibly some workbook pdfs or activity ideas. I’d also like to learn more about the library and see more book recs,” Kayla said. “I think that there just needs to be more content and discussion happening. [Ms. Laverde] is only one person and she’s doing great so far.” Emily, however, wanted more fiction and literature in the online library. 

According to Ms. Laverde, students who want more information about online reading resources can join the library Google Classrooms. Students can also reach out to Ms. Laverde through a Google form on the THHS website called “Ask the Librarian.” “I want the students to know that I am here to help. As a librarian my job is to find the resources that will work for students and teachers,” explained Ms. Laverde. “I am here to help find books they want to read for school but also for pleasure. I am also here to help find fun stuff for them to do online that is safe.”