By Bob Uphues
Although the North Riverside Public Library, 2400 Desplaines Ave., has expanded its hours of operation, access to the collection and other regular services remain limited.
To help connect North Riverside cardholders unable to freely use the library with more resources as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers, officials have expanded online services.
Those offerings include a battery of research databases, including Ancestry.com and access to one-on-one tutoring services. The library has also assembled "kits" that patrons can order and pick up curbside – ones specifically to provide senior citizens technological access to online resources and programs, learning kits for young students, home entertainment kits, workout equipment and more.
"It's been an ongoing process to establish all of the things we need to be adding," said North Riverside Library Director Natalie Starosta. "Do people have access to the internet? Are there tutoring and entertainment opportunities? [With limited access to the building] we didn't want to minimize our standard services, so there's been a lot of diversification."
With classes back in session remotely at Komarek School District 94 and at Riverside-Brookfield High School, and with only limited in-person attendance in Riverside School District 96, the library has dusted off a service it once provided but discontinued several years ago.
Students – from kindergarten through college – as well as adults seeking help with a job search can obtain expert help in a variety of subject matters through a website called Tutor.com.
"They can provide live tutors, review papers, help with resumes and cover letters," said Susan Locander, youth services manager at North Riverside Public Library. "We're targeting this more toward children and youth, but it's for adults, too."
There are no limits on the amount of time, a user can request for help, said Locander, and it can be used to help on anything from a worksheet to something wider in scope.
Users can also "like" a specific tutor to work with on an ongoing basis. There's also no cost to use the service, but you need to be a North Riverside Library cardholder to take advantage of the service, as well as others being offered.
Lizzy Boden, adult services manager at the library, said Tutor.com offers career coaching and test prep for everything ranging from the Armed Services vocational test to the citizenship test.
Access to Tutor.com went live for North Riverside cardholders on Sept. 1.
"We're hoping to work with the schools more to let them know it's available to them," Starosta said.
The library also offers 14 different databases to cardholders, from movies and audio books and magazines to research databases, including the Chicago News Collection, Ancestry.com, Consumer Reports, science references and business references.
To help senior citizens connect online, the library is partnering with Age Options to offer kits that include an internet hotspot and an iPad loaded with the Zoom app, so seniors can participate in the library's online programming.
The library currently has five iPads, which can be checked out for three weeks at a time, along with 20 hotspots.
"We're thinking about getting additional devices for people to check out," said Starosta.
Patrons can check out items from the library's new makerspace, including robots and 3D pens. There are also videogame consoles, a karaoke box, a light box, stamps and puzzles that patrons can check out.
"It's a wide variety of items," Starosta said.
Patrons interested in checking out the items or finding out more about them can call the library's main number at 708-447-0869.