The Cochrane Public Library is currently offering free memberships to make it easier for people to access its vast online resources. It has also waved all fees and fines.

With the library building closed, more people may come to discover its extensive online services and resources. They're especially valuable in this time of physical distancing, self-isolation, and studies being continued at home by students.

There's no shortage of offerings, explains library executive director Jeri Maitland.

"There are so many resources there for parents, access to newspapers, access to e-resources, movies, music... you name it. There's a lot of information that is already and always has been there."

This summer, the library completed a redesign of its website to make it even easier to navigate. 

"It's always been there, but I think now people are going to have a lot of fun discovering what we have to offer," says Andrea Johnston, community outreach and program librarian.

Solaro, for one, is helpful for those homeschooling their children.

It offers online study help and exam preparation. It aligns to the Alberta curriculum and offers help for mathematics, English/language arts, and sciences for grades 3-12, and social studies for grades 6, 9-12.

"So if parents are looking for a little extra help with homeschooling this is an amazing powerful e-resource they should check out," says Johnston.

TumbleBook is another one that's especially valuable for children and those studying  English as a Second Language (ESL).

It has an online collection of animated, talking picture books, educational videos, puzzles, games, and more for kids.

It also includes books in French and Spanish for library patrons who are studying ESL.

Recent online additions include a new romance book cloud and access to archives of the Calgary Herald from 1883 to 2010.

"A lot of companies are stepping up and want to provide even more access to patrons," Johnston explains.

Many of the online resources offer instructional brochures and tutorials to help their users.

Maitland says they are working towards setting up a chat system to connect users with librarians. When launched, they will be available to help users at set times.

She says they realize there are many users who do not have access to the internet, and the possibility of many losing their access over the next few months.  They are attempting to find solutions to help.

"We don't want access to the library to be a hardship."

"As people get used to working online and figure what that looks like in their world, we'll be there to help them."

The public library has over 18,000 members in the Cochrane area. Over the last two weeks, 150 more have joined.