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Public library workers stay busy, encourage cardholders to keep reading

Posted on April 13, 2020

Wi-Fi provided in branch parking lots

By Caitlan Butler
Staff Writer

While the Union County Public Library System is currently closed to the public as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the staff are staying busy with overdue projects and general maintenance.

“Some of the projects involved clearing cataloging backlogs and shifting collections,” Michael O’Connell, executive director of the UCPLS, said in an email correspondence. “Here at Barton, Karla Nelson (children’s librarian) is updating the AR (accelerated reader) information in all of the children’s and juvenile books; and Ashley Malone is integrating our Arkansas collection into the general non-fiction collection to increase both the exposure and the usage of the Arkansas collection.”

O’Connell said other operations are continuing as normally as they can; the staff are still emptying the book-return drop boxes, responding to emails and O’Connell is keeping up with all the system’s paperwork.

Union County parents may be missing the public library at this time. For many children, the library is a whole new world within their own — a place to see their friends, learn about new things and dive in to lives unlike their own.

Luckily, the UCPLS catalogue, plus some, is still available for free online. As members of the Arkansas Digital Library Consortium, the UCPLS is able to offer just under 50,000 titles as of September 2019 — in addition to those they have hard copies of — with e-Books and audiobooks.

The e-Book/audio book catalogue is available to all library cardholders on both laptop and desktop computers and Apple and Android mobile devices. Those that don’t have a library card currently can still get one even though the library is closed to the public.

“Just send an email to with your name, address and telephone number. We will create a card for you, email the card number and send the physical card through the Postal Service,” O’Connell said.

The collection is available online at To access the library on a mobile device, follow the following steps:

1. Search the App Store or Google Play store for Libby, by Overdrive. Install and open the app.

2. Select “yes” when asked if you have a library card; those without library cards will need to physically visit their local branch before they are able to access the e-books.

3. Click “I’ll search for a library.”

4. Enter your local zip code and select “Arkansas Digital Consortium – Union County Public System.”

5. Select “Choose a location,” then select “Union County Public Library System.”

6. Enter your library card number.

7. When your linked card appears, select “Next.”

8. You’re in! Get to reading!

Additionally, at every branch of the UCPLS — which includes the Barton Library in El Dorado, the Harper Memorial Library in Junction City and additional branches in Huttig, Norphlet, Smackover and Strong — free wi-fi is accessible from the parking lot, and staff is encouraging local residents to make use of it whenever they need to.

“This is another way to make our collection available to the residents of Union County during this disruption,” O’Connell said. “We have always had people take advantage of our free WiFi, I believe that more people are taking advantage of not having to enter the buildings.”

For parents whose children need to complete web-based homework or for those working from home on web-based services, as well as those using the internet recreationally, the wi-fi is available during the day. The password is ucpl2018.

In February, the News-Times reported that the UCPLS was facing funding issues in the coming year as the state’s minimum wage rises but property tax millages, which fund the library system, had stayed stagnant. O’Connell said he doesn’t think the pandemic will worsen the UCPLS’s financial situation.

“I think that the county in general is going to be impacted far more heavily than the libraries,” he said. “Although we are concerned about our finances, we are postponing our proposed millage campaign to the next election, when conditions will be better (hopefully).”