“The first day we opened we had over 3300 items on our hold shelf,” said Stacey Hendren, who manages the Northtown Library. “When we usually average between 400 and 700, 3300 is a huge amount of items that people are waiting for. People are just hungry for their library.”
At four libraries, a curbside service was popular during the closure, but not easy to do. The goal was to reopen in a way that would protect library users and staff members in an age of COVID-19.
“We thought a lot about how are we going to go about opening in all areas of the county,” said County Commissioner Robyn West. “But in the library we just knew because of the popularity of the curbside that we had to figure out how to do it.”
It took work from other county departments to help figure out what they could safely do.
“So many details we never thought about before,” said Interim Library Director Patti Hetrick. “Risk management has looked at how we return books and how we touch them, make sure staff is washing hands.”
Library users will notice fewer than half the computers are up and running. Others were shut down to provide distance between people. The machines are cleaned between users and with fewer computers available, there are new time limits.
If you need computer help, a librarian can no longer get close enough to look over your shoulder. But they are now set up to do it electronically.
“I can actually use a phone to talk to the person and use technology to look at their screen to guide them through what they need to do next,” said Hendren.
You’ll also notice the plexiglass at the service desk and stickers on the floor as distancing reminders. But some things are still not considered safe, so in-person programming is still on hold.
“Some of the services we’re not going to open right now include story time, we probably can’t bring a lot of kids into the library right now so we will continue to do that virtually,” said Hetrick.
But overall, the response has been strong. Northtown Library had nearly 500 items checked out on the first day they reopened. And families are glad to see it.
Jason Hovland was picking up books with his children.
“It’s been closed for awhile now and we’re anxious to find some new materials to read to keep us busy this summer,” Hovland said. “Definitely with coronavirus still a thing, it’s good to have reading as something to keep you occupied.”
Anoka County Libraries are open at about 50 percent capacity. The doors are open 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays the hours are noon to 6:00 p.m.