It’s true – you really don’t appreciate what you have until you no longer have it. As an avid reader, I have been waiting to hear when our local library will re-open. So far, the news has been very discouraging. It closed half-way through March, like most of the public libraries in the country. They announced that the library would be closed through April. Then the date was pushed ahead to May 15. Now it is closed through May, with all physical items checked out not due until June 5th.
I searched the web for library news of re-opening plans, but libraries are increasingly more hesitant to hazard a guess of when that will happen. Some smaller libraries have begun to offer drive-thru services. For example, the Gray Public Library in southern Maine is re-opening beginning today on a very limited basis. Only ten people will be allowed inside at a time. No one can use the public computers, and chairs have been removed as they don’t want people to sit down and get comfortable. You check out at the circulation desk, which has a plexiglass shield to keep the staff safer. It goes without saying that you must wear a mask while you are inside the library. Any books that are returned will be quarantined for 72 hours before being re-shelved.
In Lafayette, Lousiana a few of the libraries are offering drive-thru service. Patrons can return material and pick up holds that they placed online or by phone. Their main lobby is open for self-serve fax and copier service, but only one person can be in the lobby at a time.
The Chandler library system in Arizona has also adopted a hold pick-up system, and has okayed returns. Patrons can come by from 9am to 5pm on Monday through Friday to get their hold items.
Almost every library system in the country is just telling people to check out e-books. New York Public Library boasts that it has 300,000 digital books to check out. But they have 17 million people in their city, so that is a pitiful amount of reading material for their residents.
I guess it could be worse. The San Francisco Public Library system isn’t even projecting a date to re-open yet, and all items checked out are not due until August 1st! That tells me that they will likely be closed most, if not all, of the summer.
Despite the lack of open libraries, Americans are resourceful people. We will read what is already in our homes, borrow books from family and friends, buy some e-books for our Kindles, or sign up for e-audiobooks through services like Audible.com. After this whole coronavirus is over, hopefully we will have a greater appreciation for the wealth of library materials we enjoy in this country.