How to Put Your Calgary Public Library Card to Good Use While Self-Isolating

The Calgary Public Library’s brick and mortar branches may be closed, but you can still use your library card to take video music lessons, stream movies for free, learn a new skill online and more.

Photograph courtesy of the Calgary Public Library.

The Calgary Public Library may have temporarily closed its brick and mortar branches due to COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean your library card needs to sit dormant.

Whether you want to listen to an audiobook while taking on some chores, learn the basics of banjo, keep the kids occupied with their favourite show or kick back for a movie night, the Calgary Library has you covered with its extensive digital library.

And Calgarians are already taking note. According to the Calgary Public Library’s director of communications Mary Kapusta, eBook downloads have jumped 35 per cent since the branches closed, while visits to the digital library website increased over 190 per cent in a week.

If you don’t have a library card, free online registration takes just a few minutes and gives you instant access to 75 partner resources in addition to original content from the Calgary Public Library. Here are just a couple of the online services you can enjoy from home thanks to your library card.


Ancestry Library Edition 

Take a step back in time and through personal lineage with Ancestry Library Edition. Peruse records dating back generations to track your family’s story and broaden your understanding of your own roots.



Be mocked no longer by your guitar, piano or ukulele gathering dust — ArtistWorks offers video lessons directly from pros for everything from rock guitar to French horn. Accessing the site requires registration to RBdigital, which can be done using your library card credentials and gives you further access to digital magazines and eBooks.


Freegal Music

If taking on an instrument with ArtistWork doesn’t appeal to you and you’re more in the mood to just listen to some music, try Freegal. With a catalogue that ranges from modern top 40 to classical, Freegal currently offers unlimited streaming, plus five song downloads a week. You can also take it on the go with its mobile app on Android and iOS.



Through partnerships with universities and public libraries (like the Calgary Public Library), Kanopy offers free streaming of classic films, documentaries and indie flicks. Streams are limited to 10 films per month, but the collection also includes a selection of credit-free titles. If you’re looking to keep the kids busy, Kanopy Kids offers unlimited plays on children’s TV series and movies.



Get back to library basics with eBooks and audio books available for borrow through Libby by Overdrive. Available on iPhone, iPad and Android along with compatible e-readers, the digital collection includes thousands of titles. There’s no better time to dig into that book you’ve been meaning to read, but if you need some inspiration, check out staff-curated collections like “Long Books Worth Reading” or the impressive “Have You Seen My Shirt?” collection of 141 romance novels featuring musclebound, bare-chested men on the cover.



Start from scratch or sharpen up some skills with video tutorials offered by Lynda. Options vary from lessons on Microsoft Excel and Adobe Photoshop to coding courses and bookkeeping basics.

If you’re interested in a more structured, long-term commitment, you can sign up for two free instructor-led courses per calendar year with Gale Courses. Courses run for six weeks and include subjects like accounting and finance, screenwriting, interior design and more.



Whether you’re looking to tune in to the latest happenings around the globe or tune out with some entertainment reading, chances are PressReader has a publication for you. With thousands of international magazines and newspapers available in more than 60 languages, the site’s a one-stop shop to stay in the know and up-to-date.

For further media deep diving, check out the digital 1933 to 2015 Maclean’s Magazine Archive, 1844 to 2009 archive of The Globe and Mail or enjoy access to the New York Times Online.


Rosetta Stone

Prep for future days abroad with language lessons from Rosetta Stone Library Solution. Access interactive lessons in 30 different languages, including French, Spanish, Hindi and Dutch.

For some quick key-term lessons, check out the CPL-produced series of Indigenous Treaty 7 language lessons, which includes videos on the Dene, Blackfoot, Stoney Nakoda and Cree languages.



Solaro is a great resource for students from grades three through 12 during school closures. The site offers lessons, reviews and practice tests for extra help while learning remotely, with options that follow the Alberta curriculum.

For one-on-one support, Brainfuse offers online tutoring help daily from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m., plus study resources like digital flashcards and games.


Storytime at Home 

The Calgary Public Library has taken its story time online through the new “Storytime at Home” Youtube series. Regularly uploaded readings from CPL librarians fill the playlist for little learners who are looking for a new story from beyond their own bookshelf.

Want more suggestions for the best things to do in Calgary? Sign up for our Weekender Newsletter.

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