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eCards are valid for 120 days

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FARMINGTON — Like various other education, arts and cultural entities across the nation, the Farmington Public Library has been closed for the past several weeks because of the COVID-19 shutdown of nonessential businesses.

That doesn't mean the demand for the library's services has gone away, but the facility's staff has had few options for responding to the needs of its patrons with its doors closed. That changed on April 13 as the library began issuing eCards, which allow holders to access its online resources, including downloadable ebooks and audiobooks.

Jenny Lee Ryan, the library's program coordinator, said the launch of the eCard program is something that the staff has been focusing its efforts on for weeks.

"This is something we've been working toward," she said. "It's been on our wish list to make it happen."

The library staff did all the coding for the project, she explained, building its own program. She hinted the project could develop into something even larger.

"It's probably going to evolve into something different, but this is a step toward our ultimate goal," she said.

Anyone can apply for an eCard by visiting the library website, infoway.org, and clicking on the "Sign up for an eCard" link. Those seeking a card will need to provide their name, address, email address and date of birth, and select a PIN for their account. The process is designed to take just minutes. The eCards are valid for 120 days.

Those who hold a Farmington Public Library card already have access to the online services and don't need to apply for an eCard, Ryan said. Library cards that expired or will expire between Jan. 1 and June 30 have been automatically extended to Aug. 31.

Ryan said the development of the eCard program was a direct response to public demand.

"While we've been closed, we've been getting a lot of calls from people wanting to use our online resources," she said, adding the library staff expects a lot of patrons to take advantage of the new offering.

The ability to download audiobooks and ebooks through the Overdrive portal is perhaps the main service offered to eCard holders. Ryan noted the library has a significant collection of those titles and has added approximately 150 since the closure took effect.

"It's growing more and more," she said. "That's what people need right now."

Another popular offering is the homework assistance program, which provides online tutors from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays. The service includes live chats, electronic blackboards and document sharing.

Ryan said that service should be attractive to parents who are home schooling their children because of the closure of schools.

"We know a lot of people have their students at home," she said, adding that the service is available in English and Spanish. "That is one of our best services. They have added many more tutors, so there should be one available when you log on."

Other services include CultureGrams, which provide detailed information for all 50 states and more than 200 countries; health and wellness resources, which offers access to medical information from trusted health and medical journals, videos and articles from reference publications; and access to a home improvement reference center, which offers step-by-step instructions for plumbing, outdoor, woodworking, electrical and decorative projects.

Ryan encouraged anyone who doesn't already have a library card to register for an eCard.

"Check out our online resources," she said. "I think you're going to be really surprised at what we have."

She also emphasized that the library staff is available to provide help to anyone who needs it over the phone at 505-599-1270 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.

"If you get bogged down, give us a call," she said. "We are here and ready to help you."

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com.

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