The second week in April marks National Library Week, and this year’s theme is “Welcome to Your Library.” According to the American Library Association (ALA), this theme “promotes the idea that libraries extend far beyond the four walls of a building—and that everyone is welcome to use their services.” Looking at the library as more than a building became crucial a year ago as physical facilities closed due to public health concerns. ALA stated, “In 2020, libraries of all types stepped up to meet the needs of their communities as they responded to the impacts of COVID-19, a national financial crisis, and social unrest.” In this blog post, we highlight some of the services and activities offered over the past year by us, Houston Public Library, and Harris County Public Library.

Harris County Robert W. Hainsworth Law Library

For our part, we transitioned to virtual services, which include the following:

  • Virtual Reference Desk: Monday through Friday (except for Harris County holidays) between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. law librarians are available to respond to reference questions in English and Spanish submitted via email and voicemail.

  • Chat Reference: In collaboration with the Texas State Law Library, our law librarians are available via live chat to assist patrons between 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday (except for Harris County or Texas holidays).

  • Remote Database Access: Patrons are eligible for temporary access to LexisNexis and Westlaw; restrictions apply.

  • LexisNexis Digital Library: Patrons are eligible for free, remote access to this eBook collection of over 100 titles.

  • CLE Opportunities: Virtual CLEs are offered monthly from LexisNexis and Westlaw, free of cost.

  • Explore our website to learn more.

Houston Public Library

In addition to their normal reference services available by phone, email, and chat, Houston Public Library offered the following services and activities over the past year:

  • Curbside hold pickup, starting in July 2020.

  • Virtual programming, including book clubs, public poetry, and author talks, all of which are available without a library card (search the Events calendar for programs).

  • Virtual activity/content with story times, book chats, crafting, and STEM on their social media channels.

  • Book a Librarian via Zoom, in which patrons can book a one-hour, one-on-one virtual appointment with a librarian for a variety of reference assistance topics, including: business/non-profit start up; tech help; learning to navigate the library’s website; and catalog or readers advisory services. 

  • Youth services created many activity boxes that kids/teens can request and pick up curbside.

  • Youth services also does podcasts and curates the “QuaranTEEN Zine Project,” where “Houston youth ages 12-18 to share their experiences during the COVID-19 Pandemic and have their work promoted by Houston Public Library and added to [HPL’s] collection!”

  • By-appointment reservations for video conferencing rooms at select locations.

  • By-appointment reservations to use computers at select locations.

Houston Public Library also creates custom book lists for patrons, and all Texas residents may sign up for a MY Link library card here.

Harris County Public Library

Harris County Public Library has continued to serve its patrons over the past year by offering the following activities and services:

In addition, Harris County Public Library is celebrating its centennial in 2021, virtually. Each month, the library highlights a different decade, starting with the 1920s. They have a wide range of programs and activities each month for all age groups based on the decade.  

Harris County Public Library also offers the services of “personal reading consultants,” called Book Hunters, to develop personalized reading lists for patrons. The library offers different options for library cards—check them out here.