Every day we are finding new and unique ways to connect with our friends, families, and loved ones through technology while social distancing. The Somerset County Library System of New Jersey (SCLSNJ) strives to remain a cornerstone of the community during the COVID-19 crisis by continuing to enhance and explore ways to connect with customers safely. 

During these uncertain times, there is one thing you can count on – your Library is still here for you. Following the Library building closure, SCLSNJ began offering virtual and online remote reference via email and online chat through the previously established Ask a Librarian service. To enhance this offering while buildings are closed, the Library System has added a new component, Ask an SCLSNJ Expert. 

“SCLSNJ public services staff miss their customers and are thrilled to be able to address their information, technology, reference, and readers’ advisory needs while our Library branches are closed,” said Cathy DeBerry, adult services supervisor. “These virtual offerings are particularly important during these challenging times because it provides us the ability to connect with our customers remotely.”

This service will allow individual customers to request a 30-minute personalized one-on-one online session with an expert librarian. They will be able to request assistance with the Library’s website, databases, research questions, career assistance, small business resources, readers’ advisory, homework resource assistance, mobile devices, library apps, and more. 

“Our buildings may be closed, but we are here for our customers,” said Manuela Miracle, adult services supervisor. “At SCLSNJ we are committed to making personalized connections between patrons and materials and in promoting and supporting lifelong learning as one of our core services. Using all of the tools and training SCLSNJ invested in, Library staff are able to provide an unparalleled level of virtual services.”

To Keep You Busy

Do you have cabin fever? If you are feeling restless or unproductive during the quarantine, SCLSNJ has a number of digital resources you can access from home to keep busy, connected, engaged, and productive.

SCLSNJ’s expert librarians are here to help you explore the Library’s many resources including the recently launched adult digital learning resource Gale Presents: Udemy, which offers over 4,000 on-demand video courses taught by world-class instructors; BrainHQ, which provides two dozen scientifically proven exercises to help you think faster, focus better, and remember more; a variety of virtual history resources; and more. 

“Providing resource navigation assistance to users who are exploring new offerings for the first time, or helping patrons cull the rich demographic information located in the Gale Business DemographicsNow resource are in my particular wheelhouse,” said Miracle. “I love helping people discover new tools, books, and services that add value and enjoyment to their lives.”

Once you have delved into new resources, why not explore the old with SCLSNJ’s history resources? Our expert librarians can teach you how to navigate one of our many history-based resources and even help you discover facts about your hometown, family tree, or other areas of interest.

“Whether it’s for a broad perspective or personal focus, SCLSNJ has a variety of virtual resources for the lover of history,” said Ken Kaufman, adult services librarian. “Our family of resources are a great way for the casual history buff to discover background information on a plethora of history topics. Moving to the personal level, nothing beats the Library’s offering of Ancestry Library Edition, the largest provider of family history documents anywhere. Even for those who have little interest in history, Ancestry Library might provide a tempting trip down memory lane with its U.S. school yearbook collection.”

While you are being safe at home, our expert librarians can also chat with you or virtually meet up with you to help discover new favorite reads.

Novelist K-8 Plus is probably my favorite resource,” said Jodi Silverman, young adult and adult librarian. “Not only does it encourage tweens and teens to find new books based on their interests, it also teaches them how to identify the common elements in their favorite books. Once they find the book that clicks with them, the resource can also send you directly to the library’s catalog to check availability.” 

“SCLSNJ has so many resources that people don’t realize,” said Chris Murray, adult services supervisor. “We can help you find your next book and even explain how to get it on your Kindle. One of my go-to books for recommending is Bill Bryson’s ‘At Home.’ Bryson wanders around his house and explains cultural history by extrapolating from, for example, his sofa, or his pantry, or the view from his window…both audio and print are available digitally.”

Education Assistance

With schools being closed, many parents are finding themselves struggling to help their children with their schoolwork. Through SCLSNJ’s Ask an Expert service, parents and children can schedule virtual meetings with librarians who can provide homework help, research and reference assistance, and help navigate a variety of the Library System’s educational resources like TumbleMath, LearningExpress Library, and Lumos Test Prep.

“Science Fair projects have always been my favorite reference interactions,” said Maureen Langley, youth service supervisor. “I find them extremely challenging as they usually require the use of a variety of resources and, if I’m lucky, an obscure topic. I usually find that I learn something new about both the topic and the Library’s resources during these interactions.”

SCLSNJ’s expert librarians are also available to help students write papers using reliable information and explore resources that can help them study and prepare for tests. 

“We enjoy connecting with students by providing help using and navigating reputable sources for their term papers,” said Murray. “We digitally offer Infobase sites like American History Online, Modern World History Online, and African-American History Online that offer digitized primary sources, which is great when you can’t access them in person; Academic Search Premier, where you can get peer-reviewed articles from scholarly journals; and LearningExpress Library, which will let you practice for your SAT/ACT or grad school admissions exams.” 

Not only does the Library System provide assistance to parents and students, there are also a number of beneficial resources and a multitude of information available for teachers and educators to help them instruct from home. 

“I find that Ask an SCLSNJ Expert and Ask a Librarian are great ways for me to still connect with schools,” said Deadra Boardman, youth services librarian. “Whether it’s ReadyRosie, Picture Book Database, Beanstack, or TumbleBook LIbrary, SCLSNJ has multiple resources that are beneficial for school districts. These virtual services are an easy, safe way to share our resources with educational institutions.”

Ask an SCLSNJ Expert

If you are looking for a distraction like a fun read or a new skill; ways and/or resources to help guide your children with learning from home; or how to find reliable health information; ask an SCLSNJ expert for their support.

“Library services don’t end because the doors are closed,” said Langley. “Libraries have always provided remote service, often via phone, and these services have only increased as new e-resources have become available.”

“With 20 years of teaching experience, my favorite areas of expertise include anything dealing with education, speculative fiction readers’ advisory, gender studies, small business, academic research, technology, and information literacy,” said Carina Gonzalez, adult services librarian. 

Sessions will take place on Google Meet, an online platform. Once a Library customer signs up for a timeslot they will receive detailed instructions on how to connect technologically for this specialized session.

“Google Meet is a wonderful, easy to use tool which enables SCLSNJ staff to meet the information needs of our customers during these trying times,” said DeBerry. “Customers can speak with SCLSNJ experts in a few ways: by simply clicking on a link from their computer, by calling in with a special phone number and pin, or by waiting for a phone call during their designated appointment times.”

Virtual services are available:

  • Monday- Thursday from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Explore these virtual services: sclsnj.org/research-learn/ask-a-librarian.

Let’s all #BeSafeAtHome while also taking the adventure of a lifetime.