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Johnston libraries shutter doors but not services

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Clayton’s Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library was all set to begin curbside services for books.

Then Gov. Roy Cooper ordered North Carolinians to stay in their homes through at least April 30 because of the coronavirus.

“Based on the governor’s guidance to shelter in place and (amid) concerns about quarantining and cleaning returned books, we have decided not to move forward with that service at this time,” Joy Garretson, the library’s director, said in an email on Monday.

Instead, the library continues to offer access to its e-books, e-audiobooks and online resources, Garretson said. “We’ve even made getting a library card even easier by creating an online library card application,” she said.

To get a library card online, go to, complete the form and submit it. The library’s staff will process applications and then email applicants a PIN, or personal identification number, so they can immediately access materials.

The card gives patrons full access to the e-collections on the following platforms:

• Overdrive, which is the Hocutt-Ellington collection: This collection is exclusive to Hocutt-Ellington patrons and includes more than 6,000 e-books and e-audiobooks. Patrons can check out up to five items at a time.

• E-iNC Library: This collection has more than 30,000 digital items, including magazines and streaming videos. Check out up to four items at a time.

• NCKids Digital Library: This collection is free for all North Carolina residents who have a library card. It has more than 29,000 items just for kids, who can check out up to five items at a time.

Patrons can access these materials on their home computers, tablets and smart phones, Garretson said. They can also download the Libby app on their mobile device. “This app is a one-stop shop that allows cardholders to check out, return, read and listen to digital items in our collections,” Garretson said.

For instructions on how to download Libby for Overdrive, go to To download Libby for E-iNC, go to

“We’ve had 170 people apply online for cards in just the past week, and it’s been great to see this increased use of our online library,” Garretson said.

“Our cardholders can download multiple e-books and audiobooks without leaving home,” she said. “There are bestsellers and tons of children’s selections in both e-book and audiobook formats.”

For the library, providing access to the online materials is expensive, Garretson said. “But Hocutt-Ellington Memorial library has been increasing its budget to bolster our digital collection, so it’s really wonderful to know that investment is being put to good use,” she said.

Garretson encouraged patrons to escape into the library’s digital collections. “We all need to give our brains a rest from the news of this virus, and a good book is a perfect escape,” she said.

In addition to promoting online books and materials, the library plans to offer some programming remotely starting next week, Garretson said. “These programs will include lap-sit and preschool story times, as well as some programming for adults, including an online version of our Pageburners book club,” she said. “We will be posting updates about those programs throughout the week this week.”

Though the library building is closed, the staff is on hand weekdays to answer questions by phone or email, Garretson said. “We do ask that patrons refrain from returning books or leaving donations at the library at this time,” she said. “We will not be charging overdue fines at this time, and we have moved all due dates out to mid-May.”

For more information, call the library at 919-553-5542 or email

Smithfield library

Like its counterpart in Clayton, the Public of Johnston County and Smithfield is closed to the public until further notice because of the coronavirus.

“Due to the rapidly changing nature of this public health crisis, the library feels it is best to keep our reopening date open-ended,” the library’s director, Renita Barksdale, said in a Facebook post.

Barksdale told patrons not to worry about returning materials by their stated due date. The library is extending return dates until after it reopens, she said.

Closing the library also means canceling all public programs and events through April.

“Obviously, it is deeply disappointing for us to postpone these exciting and important events, and unsettling to have such an unclear picture of the next few months,” Barksdale said. “It continues to be a difficult decision, but we know we are doing what is necessary for the health and wellness of Johnston County and Smithfield. We will get through this uncertainty if we work together.”

Barksdale said the library was working on ways to serve patrons remotely. “We are always updating our Facebook (page) with new crafts and fun activities you can do with your family,” she said. “We have created a Temporary Virtual Library Card for new library patrons. This card will allow you to use our databases and check out online resources.”

For more information, call 919-934-8146.