By Allison Campbell-Jensen
In the last few weeks, Because of Winn-Dixie has had over 9,000 views via EbooksMN. That’s because this children’s book was uploaded for eight weeks for the first-ever One Book | One Minnesota statewide book club. Its Minnesota author, Kate DiCamillo, will lead a discussion on May 20.
“It’s super-exciting,” says Beth Staats, Reference Outreach and Instruction Librarian for Minitex, of the flood of interest. Minitex partnered with Minnesota Department of Education, State Library Services, and several Minnesota-based publishers to create Ebooks Minnesota four years ago.
This special event is one example of how streams of teachers, media specialists, and everyday people around the state are finding helpful landings — and resources — through Minitex and other U of M Libraries’ resources, as they remain home to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Safe landing for all researchers
Assisting people all over the Land of 10,000 Lakes with research resources is part of the Libraries’ land-grant institution mission. In particular, anyone can use the Libraries’ computers on site to access certain databases, says Cody Hennesy, Journalism & Digital Media Librarian.
In mid-March, however, after much of the U’s campus was shut down, he was concerned about “some of our regular public researchers, who were dismayed when we closed” the buildings.
Recognizing the need near and far, Hennesy worked with colleagues across the Libraries to create a webpage featuring freely available research resources directed towards non-University patrons.
“This guide attempts to point them to many of the great online resources that are freely available, that they could continue using from home during the closure. Some are newly available due to COVID-19,” he notes, “but many are regular collections of scholarly open access resources that we highly recommend for research.”
Since its creation, the public research resources landing page has been accessed more than 750 times.
Resources receiving recognition
“My position is more relevant than ever,” says Staats, noting a general increase in demand for Minitex resources, including those collected in EbooksMN. She recently offered a webinar introducing teachers, media specialists, and local librarians to the EbooksMN database, a collection of 10,000+ Minne-centric titles that uniquely offers readers in Minnesota unlimited access to its holdings. In the past, she might have had 15 people sign up for such a webinar; this time, she had 80 registrants.
“With schools closed,” she says, “there is an increased reliance on these resources. Finally, these resources are getting the recognition they deserve.”
Another place to land, linked to Minitex, is eLibraryMN. Minitex is a joint program of the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.
Within the EbooksMN website, Staats and her colleagues offer curated collections on topics like her recently developed Science Experiments and Projects to Do at Home. Minitex also offers, during this time of coping with COVID-19, other help, such as a list of databases for teachers and instructors that are temporarily available and a link to mental health resources for young people.
One boffo book
The successful launch of One Book | One Minnesota includes efforts by partners Minitex, the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, Minnesota Center for the Book, Minnesota Department of Education, Candlewick Press, and the Council of Regional Public Library System Administrators.
On June 5, Winn-Dixie will be removed from the EbooksMN site but the tributary opened by Minitex and its partners will continue to flow. Staats says that by mid-June, One Book | One Minnesota is expected to announce its next choice: a work by Minnesota author Louise Erdrich.