Berks County library patrons will have access to a greater selection of digital book titles due to a $50,000 allocation from the Berks County CARES Grant Program, the Berks County Public Libraries system announced Monday.

Beginning Nov. 17 and continuing every Tuesday and Friday through the rest of the year, library patrons can access additional eBook and eAudiobook titles in the countywide digital lending library.

Patrons with a library card can access online books free by visiting their library’s OverDrive website, or downloading the award-winning Libby app directly to their mobile device or tablet.

In March, when Berks County libraries closed in compliance with state COVID-19 mitigation measures, they were unable to provide the public access to about 900,000 books and other materials in their combined collections.

As a result, libraries turned to providing books where patrons could reach them — online. Officials made access to digital materials a top priority, providing access through the OverDrive platform.

“Public interest in digital library books has increased since the start of the pandemic,” said Amy Resh, Berks County Public Libraries administrator. “We saw an increase of 53% in OverDrive checkouts during the first 10 months of 2020.”

From March to June, she noted, cardholders borrowed more than 48,000 electronic books from Berks libraries.

The CARES grant, Resh said, will help satisfy the high demand for digital library items.

The funds will go toward expanding the digital collection by purchasing additional copies of popular books and adding new titles. There will be a focus on authors, viewpoints, and genres that might be underrepresented in library physical and digital collections.

Administered by the county, the Berks County CARES Grant program is funded under the COVID-19 County Relief Block Grant through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

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