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Have some free time? Explore the virtual library

If you’re wondering how you can keep whiling away the hours while your normal activities are on hold, here’s a suggestion: Take advantage of the virtual public library.

Although your neighborhood library is shuttered for the time being, the New Orleans Public Library still provides access to a wide variety of movies to stream, e-books to read, audio books to listen to and more. There are also plenty of resources to keep the kids entertained, help them (and you) master their homework and even prepare for the LEAP or the SAT.

Now that you have more time on your hands, have you been thinking about tackling some of the projects you haven’t gotten around to? The virtual library can help. It has tools you need to, for example, research your family tree or your house, learn a language, update your resume or hone your skills in carpentry, gardening or just about anything.

The library can also make up for some of the things you may be missing in your life right now. Well, not hugs. Or live music. But you can take get a cardio workout or a take yoga class from a master. You can even join a book club (bring your own wine).

Best of all, it’s free. All you need is internet access and a library card. If you’re missing the latter, the NOPL can take care of that. Orleans Parish residents who do not have a library card can sign up for a temporary account at to have access to most of the e-resources.

If you have questions or need some human guidance at any point in your e-library adventure, real live librarians are standing by. To speak with one, call 504-383-4682 Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. or Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you cannot remember your card number or have issues with your library card or account, call 504-529-7323. Or if you prefer to stay online, leave a message at any time. You’ll be doing them a favor — librarians love to help people.

Here are some of the e-resources available with a New Orleans Public Library card.

Go to the movies, hear some music

Kanopy: You can stream indie films, documentaries, PBS specials, the Criterion Collection, engaging and educational kids entertainment and The Great Courses from the on-demand steaming service Kanopy.

Anyone with a library card can choose from more than 30,000 films from any computer, television, mobile device or platform. You can watch up to 12 films per month — with unlimited plays on Kanopy Kids and The Great Courses.

Hoopla: This streaming platform for libraries has audio books, comics, e-books, movies, music and TV shows. It has a wide selection of popular movies. Let it know your preferred genres and Hoopla will give you recommendations, or you can search for specific titles or within genres. If you have children in the house, you can set Hoopla to show only kid-friendly titles.

Freegal: This is a music streaming site where you can download up to seven songs per week to most electronic devices or stream music for up to six hours per day. Choose from over 13 million songs and over 15,000 music videos.

Read, or listen to, a book

Hoopla: In addition to movies and music, this instant streaming service offers e-books and audio books for instant download to your smartphone, tablet, computer or Apple TV.

NOPL Cloud Library: You can borrow books from the library by going to the Cloud. From the Cloud Library, download e-books to most electronic devices. The Cloud Library is the place to go for recently published books. It has books for kids, teens and adults, plus a collection of cookbooks to guide your stay-at-home kitchen adventures.

Audio Book Cloud: This all-ages audio book database is available, though donation, to NOPL patrons through Aug. 31, so take advantage of it while you can.

E-Book Public Library Collection: Also available through a temporary donation, this is a gateway to multiple resources for research as well as entertainment. NOPL card-holders have access to it through June 30.

Overdrive: Download e-books and audiobooks — as well as music and children’s and instructional videos — to most electronic devices. Try Overdrive if you’re looking for older titles.

Through Overdrive, you can also join a book club, the Big Library Read, connecting readers around the world with the same book at the same time without any waitlists or holds. The book up for discussion through April 13 is “Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic” by comedian Michael McCreary. After you read it, you can join an online discussion (unlike most book clubs, it’s monitored for inappropriate comments) or discuss the book on social media using #biglibraryread.

Reviews and recommendations: The sheer volume of online resources available through the library can be overwhelming. Your public library also has help with that. If you’re not sure which books or movies you want to spend your time with, check out Ebsco’s database of reviews. It has full-text searchable reviews of books, music and movies.

Or go to Novelist Plus. This database lets you discover books and authors based on what you like to read. Special features include author read-alikes and book discussion guides.

For the kids (and then some)

TumbleBooks for Kids: Interactive e-storybooks, chapter books, nonfiction, language learning, puzzles and games are chosen for kindergarten through sixth grade. One of its newer TumbleTunes selections is the “Wash Your Hands” song (“If we all work together, we can soon say ‘Buh Bye Virus! See ya, Never!'”).

A librarian introducing herself as “August at the library” reads “I Got the Rhythm” to children out of school or day care because of the coronavirus.

Virtual Storytimes: The NOPL children’s librarians haven’t stopped holding Storytimes for kids. Every weekday morning, a new video is uploaded and available on YouTube. Plus, the librarians go live on Facebook every Friday at 10:30 a.m. Check them out now because after the libraries reopen and live Storytimes start back up, they will be gone.

Homework help: Through HomeworkLouisiana, online tutors — for kindergarten up through basic college level — are available Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to midnight and Saturdays and Sundays from 2 p.m. to midnight. The hours were extended to midnight through May 31 because of higher demand during the school shutdowns. The self-study tools are always available for those preparing for the ACT, SAT, GED or Advanced Placement exams. Tutoring services are also provided in Spanish and Vietnamese.

LEAP Practice Test Questions: Practice Tests show what each part, or session, of the real LEAP and GEE tests is like. Practice Tests look similar to the real tests.

Don’t just sit there. Improve yourself.

You can use this unexpected free time to gain or hone skills. Whether you want to improve your earning power or enhance your leisure time with a new (or improved) hobby, the library has a database for that.

Homework Louisiana: It’s not just kids who need to do homework. This service goes through basic college-level skill building. Plus, its job-search section offers assistance with resumes, cover letters, applications, interviews and search techniques (seven days a week, 10 a.m. to midnight).

Learning Express 3.0: Here you’ll find tutorials, tests and e-books to help you start a new career or advance in your current one. You can prepare for certifications and exams in fields such as real estate, civil service, law enforcement and more. It can also help prepare for the GED, CLEP, college entrance or citizenship exams.

LinkedIn Learning, formerly, offers in-depth profession-level training. (via, now LinkedIn Learning, is a massive online professional development resource for business, software, technology, education and creative skills. The online video tutorials are taught by recognized industry professionals. When you finish a course, you can receive a certificate of completion.

Creativebug: Your library card gives you unlimited access to more than 1,000 art and craft video classes taught by top design experts and artists. Since the classes never expire, you can start and stop projects at your own pace. No pressure, lots of possibilities.

Hobbies and Crafts Reference Center: Here you can pore through books, journals and videos on arts, crafts, collecting, home and garden, indoor and outdoor recreation plus performing arts, science and technology and more. For help with your to-do list of house projects, there’s the Home Improvement Reference Center. It won’t install the ceiling fan, plant your herb garden or build your shelves, but it will give you guidance along the way.

Explore the past

Newspaper archives: Whether you are researching your family, a building, an event or anything else related to New Orleans history, you’ll find surprising and fascinating stories in the NewsBank historic archive of The Times-Picayune (1837-1988), New Orleans Item (1877-1958), New Orleans States (1916-1957) and States-Item (1960-1979). The library also has current content from The Times Picayune (1988-present), the New Orleans Advocate (2012-present) and other papers. Want to research other cities? offers up more than 4,000 historical newspapers from the early 1700s into the early 2000s,

HeritageQuest Online: A huge database 0f genealogical and historical sources for more than 60 countries going back to the 1700s. The collection consists of everything you need to start your ancestral research: U.S. Federal Censuses, Revolutionary War records, Freedman’s Bank Records, genealogy and local history books, Social Security Death Index and more.

Sanborn Maps: These maps, used by the City Planning Commission and the Historic District Landmarks Commission to research properties, were created to assist fire insurance companies from 1885 to the mid-20th century. The digitized maps detail property and land-use for Louisiana cities and towns. See here for an index of street names (be aware that some names have changed). Another source, Fire Insurance Maps online (FIMo), has the fire insurance maps, real estate atlases, plat books and other historical maps showing building structures, construction details, property ownership and other useful information. It has an interactive search tool.

Sheet 68 from the 1896 Sanborn map of New Orleans.

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