Libraries offer curbside pick-up service

Libraries around the Twin Counties are reopening for curbside pickup after the coronavirus shutdown closed their doors since mid March. Pictured is the D.R. Evarts Library in Athens. C-GM file photo

Bibliophiles no longer have to wait for new material.

Twin County libraries are open for contactless curbside pick-up.

While library buildings remain closed, library patrons can order materials by phone or email and schedule a time to retreive the materials in person.

Libraries throughout Greene and Columbia counties have continued providing online resources, including classes, audio books and e-books, during the pandemic, which shuttered public gathering spaces in mid-March. But the shutdown prevented book lovers from accessing new material until libraries rolled out curbside pick-up in late June.

Contactless pick-up has been a success so far, with Columbia County libraries expanding the service from four days a week to six due to the high demand, said AnnaLee Dragon, chairwoman of the Columbia County Library Association and director of the Kinderhook Memorial Library.

Columbia County libraries coordinated their efforts to ensure that no single library was inundated with requests, said Dragon, who noted the Kinderhook Memorial Library has filled more than 500 pick-up orders so far.

Like their counterparts across the river, Greene County libraries are banding together to share safety and staffing ideas as they ease into curbside pick-up, said Maureen Garcia, director of the Mountain Top Library in Tannersville.

The libraries have put disinfecting routines in place to keep librarians and the public safe. In addition to regularly disinfecting work spaces, staff members have set up stations to allow returned books and other materials to sit untouched for 72 hours before being returned to the shelves, Garcia said. Traces of the COVID-19 virus are not detectable on library materials after three days of quarantine, researchers at the Battelle Memorial Institute in Ohio found after conducting tests.

Researchers at Battelle, which is part of the Reopening Archives, Libraries and Museums, or REALM, partnership, studied how long the coronavirus can live on book covers and bindings at standard room temperature and humidity conditions. They found that leaving library materials untouched for three days in standard temperatures is sufficient to reduce the risk of infection from those materials, according to results released on the REALM website.

Researchers are doing more tests to learn if this holds true for other library materials, including audiobooks and DVDs, REALM said.

Library directors across the Twin Counties said they want to ensure their libraries remain sources of entertainment and information, despite the absence of in-person activities.

Librarians have adjusted their services throughout the four month closure, offering Wi-Fi access in library parking lots, holding reading activities online and easing the registration process for library cards.

“We appreciate everybody’s patience as we reinvent our jobs,” Dragon said, a process she compared to building an airplane while flying it.

Libraries, normally bustling centers of community activity, have changed amid the pandemic.

Library staff members agree they miss interacting with their devoted patrons, but must reopen in a safe and thoughtful way, said Catherine Benson, director of the Heermance Memorial Library in Coxsackie.

“We want to be examples of safety for the community as we start operating again,” Benson said.

Like all libraries in the area, staff at Heermance are being screened for COVID-19 symptoms before entering the library, spacing out work areas when possible and staggering their arrival times, a process Benson said is necessary to ensuring workers’ safety.

Library due dates have been continually pushed back and fines have been waived to accommodate patrons during the library building closures.

The Heermance Memorial Library conducted a review of the materials in its inventory before reopening for curbside pick-up, and Benson is not anticipating a high volume of lost books as a result of the shutdown, Benson said.

“Books have a life once they leave and we hope they find a happy home,” she said, adding, “The books always turn up.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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