Libraries across Minnesota remain closed to the public, but some have started offering contactless curbside pickup for patrons looking for a fresh influx of reading material.
Details vary by library — but generally, patrons are able to email or call in requests, or to place holds online, and then pick up library materials at the door or curb when items are ready.
“Libraries are about access,” said Margaret Stone, director of Dakota County Library. “Libraries are working really hard to continue to give that access. We just are needing to give that in a different way than we’ve done before. So we’re trying to be creative. We’re open to suggestions, and I’m hoping the library customers and patrons will stay connected with us while we work out this new normal."
Stone said that when libraries closed in March, they worked first to roll out digital programs and virtual services, but they knew that many people prefer or require printed materials. Dakota County librarians began fulfilling curbside pickup requests at the start of April.
Stone said they’ve seen requests ranging across the library catalog, but she’s particularly heard back from parents who are grateful to have new children’s books to read.
Tracy Baumann of St. Paul Public Library said they’ve also seen a positive response to contactless pickup service: “They call and people are like, 'Oh, my husband will be so excited to get his materials.' We had an author who wanted a book that we had, and she needed it. Kids who are looking for something to do, (and) the parents are very thankful to be able to come pick up some materials.”
Baumann said that in the first week of contactless pickup, nearly 2,000 items have been checked out of five libraries in St. Paul. For comparison, the number of physical items picked up in the same time span last year was more than 40,000.
St. Paul Public Library is asking people not to return books right now, and library due dates have been extended. Some other libraries are quarantining returned books for three days to avoid spreading any germs that may cling to hard plastic covers.
Both Baumann and Stone said those still working inside the libraries are taking care to maintain social distance.
Some libraries limit the number of items that can be checked out. Contact your local library to see whether and where contactless pickup is available.