Greater Victoria Public Library and Vancouver Island Regional Library have seen spikes in online users during the COVID-19 pandemic. They offer eBooks, eAudiobooks, movies, television, music and online learning. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

What people are reading, watching and learning from local libraries during COVID-19

GVPL and VIRL see big spikes in online users

While many may prefer the feel of a physical book in their hands, local libraries are helping to bridge the digital divide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s quite amazing actually,” said Jessica Woollard, communications officer for the Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL). “The numbers are off the charts with borrowing and that’s people borrowing individually as well as new people who haven’t been into our digital collections before.”

In April, digital borrowing from GVPL was up 77 per cent from last year. The library system saw a 500 per cent increase in online card registrations, something that has been offered since 2017.

Since the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) launched online card registration on March 27, nearly 1,200 new customers have signed up for membership according to a VIRL spokesperson. The library system’s two most popular eBook and eAudiobook platforms – Overdrive and RB Digital – have seen a spike of 132 per cent in the average daily number of customers setting up accounts. Borrowing rates have risen 50 per cent for eBooks and 30 per cent for eAudiobooks at VIRL.

READ ALSO: Another one for the books: Greater Victoria libraries reflect on 2019

Woollard said GVPL staff have been looking at book trends and new books coming out to make sure there is new content available for people online. There’s one set of staff working to provide digital content and another set of staff available for technical support.

Both library systems offer online opportunities to read, watch, listen and learn. There are books, magazines, newspapers, television shows, movies, music and online classes for people to engage with. The popular genealogy site Ancestry.ca is also offered to GVPL users online, something that is normally only available in the branches.

At GVPL, Woollard said British mysteries as well as some bestsellers like Becoming by Michelle Obama and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens are popular. She said the Canadian novelist Emily St. John Mandel – who often features Vancouver Island in her novels – is also popular with books like the recently released The Glass Hotel and her 2014 book, Station Eleven.

Fantasy and graphic novel series’ continue to be popular amongst teens and British television and movies are popular as well. For music, people are listening to recent Grammy Award hits but are also throwing it back to the 1980s.

At VIRL, fiction is much more popular than non-fiction with thrillers coming out ahead as a favourite genre followed by romance and mystery. British television is also a favourite amongst VIRL users.

“It’s so wonderful libraries were positioned to help during this time … ready to jump in with this kind of support,” Woollard said. “Out of necessity, people are pushing their technological skills and we’re grateful to be able to play a role in bridging the digital divide.”

READ ALSO: ‘Our community loves a good mystery’ – GVPL lists favourites of 2017

Some of the most popular titles in each library system are as follows:

Most read eBooks at VIRL

The Alice Network

Where the Crawdads Sing

The Woman in the Window

The Good Daughter

The Kept Woman: Will Trent Series, Book Eight

Past Tense: A Jack Reacher Novel

Little Women

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Dark Sacred Night: Renee Ballard Series, Book Two

Most read eBooks at GVPL

Kingdom of the Blind

Becoming

Dark Sacred Night

Blue Moon

The Boy from the Woods

Where the Crawdads Sing

Walk the Wire

A Conspiracy of Bones

The Glass Hotel

Popular eAudiobooks at VIRL

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

The Last Widow: Will Trent Series, Book Nine

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Beating About the Bush: Agatha Raisin Mystery Series, Book 30

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

Everything I Never Told You

Becoming

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Where the Crawdads Sing

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away my Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More than Anything You can Buy in a Store

Popular eAudiobooks GVPL

Becoming

Untamed

Where the Crawdads Sing

Station Eleven

I Found You

Braiding Sweetgrass

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

The Making of Us

Popular Kids/Teen Books GVPL

The Book Thief

Big Nate and Friends

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Cabin Fever

Throne of Glass

A Court of Thorns and Roses

Chain of Gold

Sisters

Guts

Karen’s Witch

Online Learning at VIRL

Top five languages: French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian and Mandarin

Ninety per cent of most popular classes focus on using and designing digital content

Two-hundred people have completed a bookkeeping basics class through the eLibrary this year

Movies at GVPL

Waiting for Anya

Hunky Dory

Agatha and the Truth of Murder

From Time to Time

Northanger Abbey

TV Series at GVPL

My Life is Murder

Keeping Faith

Good Karma Hospital

Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries

Collision

Music at GVPL

2020 Grammy Nominees CD

80s Mixtape CD

“Future Nostalgia” – Dua Lipa

“Lover” – Taylor Swift

The Greatest Showman soundtrack

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca


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