Pandemic Distractions

Free online resources for entertainment, learning, and distraction

Some of these resources require you to have a public library card.
Don't have one? Many libraries let you sign up initially online.

AudioBooks & eBooks

  • The Internet Archive offers over 20,000,000 freely downloadable books and texts. There is also a collection of 1.3 million modern eBooks that may be borrowed by anyone with a free account.
  • Overdrive is a free service offered by your library or school that lets you borrow digital content (like ebooks and audiobooks) anytime, anywhere. Every OverDrive collection is slightly different because each library or school picks the digital content they want for their users.
  • Project Gutenberg is a library of over 60,000 free eBooks. Choose among free epub and Kindle eBooks, download them or read them online.
  • Hoopla Digital is a digital media service offered by your local public library that allows you to borrow movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics and TV shows to enjoy on your computer, tablet, or phone – and even your TV!
  • Audible has made hundreds of titles available for free during the coronavirus pandemic. They state: "For as long as schools are closed, we're open. Starting today, kids everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across six different languages... All stories are free to stream on your desktop, laptop, phone or tablet."
  • Free Comics lists multiple sources of free comics available online.

Open Access Art

  • ColorOurCollections is an annual coloring festival on social media during which libraries, museums, archives and other cultural institutions around the world share free coloring content featuring images from their collections.
  • Flickr: The Commons- Hidden treasures from the world's public photography archives.
  • Smithsonian Open Access: Download, share, and reuse millions of the Smithsonian’s images— nearly 3 million 2D and 3D digital items from our collections, with many more to come.
  • National Gallery of Art: Images- More than 51,000 open access digital images up to 4000 pixels each available free of charge for download and use. NGA Images is designed to facilitate learning, enrichment, enjoyment, and exploration.
  • Art Institute of Chicago: Explore thousands of artworks in the museum’s wide-ranging collection. Enhanced visual options allow you to zoom in to an amazing level of detail.
  • Unsplash: Over one million free high-resolution images brought to you by the world’s most generous community of photographers.


  • The Internet Archive offers over 5,000,000 digital movies which range from classic full-length films, to daily alternative news broadcasts, to cartoons and concerts. Many of these videos are available for free download.
  • Hoopla Digital is a digital media service offered by your local public library that allows you to borrow movies, music, audiobooks, ebooks, comics and TV shows to enjoy on your computer, tablet, or phone – and even your TV!
  • Kanopy: Watch over 30,000 Documentaries, Classic and Indie Films. On Desktop, Mobile and Roku for Students, Professors & Library Patrons. Try this if Hoopla isn't offered at your libray.

Learn Something New

  • The Great Courses Library: Library patrons can now access The Great Courses on RBdigital! Ignite curiosity and invigorate passions with access to thousands of innovative and immersive learning experiences.
  • CS Unplugged: Computer Science without a computer: Each Unplugged activity is available to download in PDF format, with full instructions, worksheets, background sections, and answers. The activities are primarily aimed at the five to twelve year-old age group, but they can be used to teach older children and adults too, with little modification.
  • Scholastic Learn at Home: Free day-by-day projects to keep kids reading, thinking, and growing.
  • SmartHistory's free, award-winning digital content unlocks the expertise of hundreds of leading scholars, making the history of art accessible and engaging.
  • Khan Academy is a nonprofit with the mission to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.
  • SciShow: The world is marvelous and weird, and SciShow is here to explain it. Whether it’s earthquakes in Italy, meteors in Russia, or why some people’s pee doesn’t smell like asparagus, SciShow explores the surprising and exciting realities of our universe.
  • Crash Course: From courses like Astronomy to US History and Anatomy & Physiology it's got you covered with an awesome variety of AP high school curriculum topics. With various witty hosts at your service, you won't even notice you're getting smarter.
  • AP Online Classes and Review Sessions: College Board has assembled the country's best AP teachers to conduct live and on-demand AP classes and review sessions to help students still be able to test and earn college credit in 2020.
  • Repository of Distance Learning: With children and learners everywhere out of school for the forseeable future, museums across the continent have come together to share their distance learning with you.

Virtual Walkabouts

Crowdsourcing Projects

  • Zooniverse Projects: Join the Zooniverse, the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research. More than a million people around the world volunteer their time to enable research that would not be possible, or practical, otherwise.
  • Citizen Archivist: Contribute to the National Archives Catalog by tagging, transcribing and adding comments to our records, making them more accessible and searchable. Every contribution you make helps unlock history.
  • Play Eyewire to map the 3D structure of neurons and contribute to revolutionary crowd-sourced scientific discovery from Seung Lab.
  • Old Weather: Help scientists transcribe Arctic and worldwide weather observations recorded in ship's logs since the mid-19th century.
  • Galaxy Zoo is an astronomy project which invites people to assist in the morphological classification of large numbers of galaxies.
  • LibriVox is a group of worldwide volunteers who read and record public domain texts, creating free public domain audiobooks.
  • Amara: Help create subtitles for videos so they will be accessible for all.
  • Planet Hunters is a citizen science project to find exoplanets using human eyes.

Advanced Crowdsourcing

  • Genius is the ultimate source of music knowledge, created by people like you from around the world, who share facts and insight about the songs and artists they love.
  • Wikipedia is more than just an online encyclopedia. It is a world-wide community of people who volunteer their time and share knowledge in order to make the world a better place and you are welcome to join.

Exercise & Stay Fit

  • Vida Fitness: Interactive workouts that you can do from the comfort of your home.
  • 202 Strong: Free livestream exercise classes every day.
  • 305 Fitness is more than an addictive 55-minute cardio dance party. It’s a safe space where you can release your inhibitions, let your freak flag fly, and meet open-minded people while getting stronger and happier.

Tag us with #pandemicdistractions on Twitter with questions or suggestions: @spellboundblog

Jeanne Kramer-Smyth is an archivist, author, and artist. Jeanne loves promoting digital resources, particularly those that are open access or supported by cultural heritage institutions and library membership.