Any parent whose baby was born premature knows what it’s like to spend weeks or even months in the hospital. The Anchorage Public Library found a way to make sure those parents have a way to fill their downtime by providing free, online resources through its Library in the NICU program.

Tonya Parker’s hospital room has been her home for the past 57 days.

“He was one pound, 14 ounces. And he’s four pounds, 14 ounces now,” she said about her son, Ethan.

Ethan arrived eight weeks early and has been at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Providence Alaska Medical Center since his birthday on Oct. 4.

“It’s been an experience, emotional, exhausting but it’s been amazing watching him grow,” Parker said.

She’s from Kenai and spends 24/7 at Providence. Thanks to the Library in the NICU program, she has a way to stay busy.

“It takes you to a bunch of online classes you can take, a bunch of videos you can watch,” Parker said as she browsed online while Ethan slept.

Hundreds of books and movies are just a click away.

“With your public library card, you can download music and keep it for free,” associate librarian Nathan Howes explained.

He came up with the idea because he knows what it’s like to live in the hospital. His twin girls, Natalie and Cassidy, were three months premature.

“They were a foot long and a pound and a half when they were born,” he said. “Over the course of getting them healthy and home, we spent six months in the NICU here in Anchorage.”

Howes thought parents in his situation needed something to occupy their time besides television.

“We’ve been doing our best to get out and try to bring the library to the citizens of Anchorage,” he said. “This was just a partnership with Providence Hospital that seemed to make a lot of sense and it’s been going really well so far.”

Parker was looking forward to some of the online classes, including one for Photoshop. Ethan is now taking a full bottle and could be discharged from the NICU any day. Parker said the resources are a way for her to keep busy until she can bring her son home.

KTVA 11’s Heather Hintze can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

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