Like many people during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Sharon Dean of Hilliard found herself with a lot of time on her hands and wanted to fill the empty hours with some sort of entertainment.

Dean, owner of Embody Health & Wellness in Mill Run, near Interstate 270 and Cemetery Road outside Hilliard, consulted “Reserve an Expert,” a new Columbus Metropolitan Library program that gives patrons one-on-one remote access via a free version of Skype software with librarians who can help them navigate the website and the many digital services and platforms the library system offers.

Dean submitted a request, and within an hour, she had an appointment with librarian Ellen Armstrong, who walked Dean through the offerings later that afternoon.

Dean said a friend had told her about the library providing Kanopy, an on-demand streaming-video platform for public libraries and universities, as well as the Flipster app for digital magazines and Libby for e-books.

“I can’t believe I didn’t know about this resource,” she said. “They have sold me because it opened up my world.”

“Reserve an Expert” can be accessed online at

It was launched April 21, said Ben Zenitsky, the library system’s marketing and communications specialist.

Customers may select their own appointment time or work with a staff member via email, chat or phone to schedule.

Customers will have to enter their library-card number to schedule directly from the link. However, library staff members also can schedule appointments for others who reach out via call or chat.

Signing up for a library card remains free.

Armstrong, a librarian for 10 years, said Dean’s question was right up her alley. Armstrong trains staff on how to use digital services and works in the adult-services division at the Main Library.

She and other experts at the library are providing their services remotely; Armstrong is doing it from her Clintonville residence.

Questions are answered in the subjects of local history and genealogy, business, digital content and job and resume help, she said.

“The video gives you a sense that it’s closer to being one and one,” Armstrong said. “It’s a little bit easier than trying to do it over the phone or email, which is more challenging.”

Because of the shutdowns related to the COVID-19 coronavirus, the Main Library, 96 S. Grant Ave. in downtown Columbus, and all 22 branches are closed, with no end date specified, Zenitsky said.

However, as of April 30, plans are underway to initiate a phased reopening of some of the physical locations by the end of May, he said.