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Millcreek Journal

How Salt Lake County libraries are maintaining contact through partial closure

Aug 06, 2020 03:26PM ● By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones

Librarians record programs for kids to watch online. (Photo courtesy Sara Neal)

By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones | [email protected]

Not being able to walk into a library to browse and check out books has been tough for many people during the coronavirus shutdown.

Bethany Wursten, a frequent patron of the Hunter Library, said she always enjoyed picking out her books, looking through them, and making sure they were what she wanted. That process changed a bit due to the pandemic.

Beginning May 26, when curbside pickup was put into place, Wursten started putting in her order via the library’s website, waiting for her time, and picking up her books at the front of the library. “Other than one time, when the system was down, everything has run pretty smooth,” she said.

“It was nice and easy. With a toddler, I didn’t have to worry about dragging him in,” she added.

In fact, she was surprised at how much she liked it.

Utah County Library Director Jim Cooper said curbside pickup has been successful. “We’ve had a great response to the temporary changes at the libraries,” he said.

Over 300,000 plus items are currently checked out, and eBook learning, including language learning, has expanded 140%. More patrons than ever are taking part in online Storytime and STEM classes. The 72-hour quarantine of items has been an ongoing process, as well as the shift in picking up holds at the front of the library, but Cooper said he has been happy with the results.

Though the physical library doors have been shut for a time, the county libraries have still been running, just differently. And with the continued phased reopening of branches on July 20, patrons can now enter their respective county library—something that hasn’t happened since May.

After setting up an appointment, patrons enter their library at their designated day and time. There will be a “one-way pass holds area where they can pick up their books, as well as an area of displays,” Cooper said, adding that the displays are sort of a, “I think I’d like to check this out” opportunity.

Of course, masks are still the order of the day, but, hopefully, patrons will enjoy this phased reopening.

“Our greatest concern is the safety of our staff and the public,” he said. Case in point: When the system went down in July getting it back up was “our first priority. It was important that we protect the public’s privacy.”

Computers are not available for use, nor the rental of rooms, but Cooper said they are continually “inventing processes with the staff. We are asking, ‘How will this work?’ and trying things out.”

“We want people to get into their hands what they want and need for their life.”

As patrons wait for a full opening of the library, Cooper suggests those with young families go online for Storytime. “It is more popular now than when we had it inside the library. We stream it live, and it is archived. You can watch it at your leisure. We used to have about 30 kids participating in Storytime, now hundreds can participate.”

Plus, anything in the library can be checked out, he said. “If it’s not at your library location, we can transport it to where you are.”