As Jefferson and Clallam counties reopen to Phase 2 standards, public libraries across the North Olympic Peninsula are slowly restarting check-in and check-out services and other activities, but they are not open for pre-COVID-19 business as usual yet.
The buildings remain closed because of concerns about the spread of COVID-19. But library leaders say they have been working on reopening plans for weeks and are expanding services — including curbside pickup and item returns.
The Jefferson County Library and Port Townsend Public Library opened some book drops on Monday and plan to start curbside pickup next Tuesday.
All four Clallam County libraries — Port Angeles, Sequim, Forks and Clallam Bay — overseen by the North Olympic Library System (NOLS) will begin to accept returns today through Saturday and start curbside hold pickups next Wednesday.
Melody Eisler, Port Townsend Public Library executive director, and Tamara Meredith, Jefferson County Library director, are glad the libraries can start offering physical materials again after months of providing online services.
“It feels wonderful,” Eisler said. “We have so missed our patrons. We know that not everyone has a computer or a device or internet at home, so hopefully this will be able to expand our reach to more people in the community.”
Said Meredith: “It’s a relief. We’ve been fielding phone calls and doing online programming for several months now, but it’s just not the same as being able to make sure we got the materials into the hands of our patrons that they’ve wanted and requested.
The Jefferson County Library and the Port Townsend Public Library opened some of their book drops on Monday and plan to start curbside pickup Tuesday next week.
Curbside pick up at the Jefferson County Library will operate from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Port Townsend library’s curbside pickup will be from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
The Jefferson County Library has opened the two book drops at it site at 620 Cedar Ave., in Port Hadlock, and book drops in Brinnon, Quilcene, Gardiner and Port Ludlow will open sometime next week, Meredith said.
The Port Townsend Library at 1220 Lawrence St., opened its book drop there as well as at the Port Townsend QFC at 515 Sheridan St., on Monday, said Melody Eisler, Port Townsend Public Library executive director.
The library’s book drop at the Food Co-op and the Friends of the Library book drop are now in use for the Community Masking Program and the Mountain View Commons book drop is being used by the City Development Services, she added.
The Jefferson County Library’s Bookmobile will return on Monday at its regular locations, but at different hours. Information is available at tinyurl.com/PDN-BookmobileCovidHours.
The Jefferson County Library and the Port Townsend Library have more than 24,000 items checked-out combined.
The book returns only hold about 400 items each, so Meredith has requested that people with birthdays on odd-numbered days, return their items on odd-numbered day and people born on an even-number day return their books on even numbered-days, she said. There is no such recommendation for the Port Townsend drops, Eisler said.
Due to the Cooperative Libraries of the Eastern Olympics (CLEO) partnership, all items checked out from either library can be returned at either library’s drop boxes. Also, items from one library can be put on hold and picked up at the other, Eisler said.
It can take a few days to weeks for a person’s requested hold to be ready, depending on where the request is in line. The state requires libraries to keep returned items in quarantine for 72 hours, Eisler said.
When an item on hold is ready to be picked up, the person who requested it will be notified. When the person arrives at the designated parking spot at the library, they will call the posted phone number and a staff member will bring out their reserved items and place them in the trunk or rear seat. People are asked to stay in their cars, Meredith said.
The CLEO Summer Reading program has launched, which offers prizes for time reading over the summer. More information on it can be found at tinyurl.com/PDN-JeffersonSummerReading.
Curbside returns will be provided at the Port Angeles, Sequim, Forks and Clallam Bay public libraries from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through Saturday.
Next Wednesday, June 24, the libraries will begin curbside service for materials on hold, said Assistant Director Noah Glaude, NOLS’s incoming library director.
This week’s effort is intended to encourage getting as many of the 40,000 items out on loan back “so we can play catch-up,” Glaude said.
He emphasized that libraries will not accept donations.
Since returns must be quarantined for 72 hours, they will be placed in large boxes that will be set aside indoors until the materials can be made available for use, Glaude said.
Returns also will be accepted next week when the libraries begin offering curbside delivery of hold requests from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
Notices will be sent out items are available and the recipients will drive to their local libraries to find directional signs telling them how to proceed, Glaude said.
Said Margaret Jakubcin, outgoing library director for NOLS: “Restarting library operations under conditions where transmission of coronavirus remains a continuing concern is an extremely complex matte.
“Retail operations have been leading the way in developing curbside delivery methods,” Jakubcin said. ”However, unlike retail operations, where products mostly flow in one direction, libraries have to make provision for safe handling and decontamination of borrowed materials, as they are returned from households throughout the county, and before they are re-shared with others.”
NOLS’s annual Summer Reading Program will resumed on Monday. It will be different than in past years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, NOLS representatives say, but will still have a reading challenge with incentives to earn a special NOLS T-shirt, chances to win prizes and virtual events for all ages.
More information about how to participate in NOLS’s Summer Reading Program can be found at nols.org/srp/
More information regarding NOLS’s curbside pickups can be found at nols.org.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached by email at email@example.com.
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peninsula Daily News Executive Editor Leah Leach contributed to this story.