Library materials hit curbside

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN — The wait is over for patrons waiting to get their hands on some new, or beloved, reading material from their local libraries.

Libraries across the region welcomed back limited staff to restart service for patrons Monday. After being closed since March, libraries are reopening buildings to staff members to fulfill material requests for patrons to pick up in a curbside service.

Beginning Monday, the Buchanan District Library, Niles District Library and Dowagiac District Library all opened for curbside service hours.

Just after opening, the Niles District Library’s director Stevyn Compoe was already seeing familiar faces greeting him in the parking lot.

One woman recognized Compoe and cheerfully caught up for a moment before picking up her materials from another worker. The library has orange cones in the parking lot and signs set up to direct patrons to dedicated spaces for material drop off and pick up.

The Niles District Library began its “Chapter Three” step in its reopening plan on Monday. Library patrons may call, email or place holds online for materials they wish to borrow. After the request is made, patrons will be able to arrive at the library, call the desk, and a worker will deliver the materials out to them.

“Our reserve shelves are full,” Compoe said. “Once we got back in [the building], we started taking orders and we’re ready to start fulfilling them.”

As the orders are fulfilled, those filling them are taking extra care in the process. The staff is subject to wellness and safety protocols due to COVID-19, Compoe said.

According to the Niles District Library’s Pandemic Reopening Plan, staff are completing a pre-arrival symptom check, having temperatures taken upon arriving, masks are required in the building, and gloves are required when handling materials. Keeping a safe distance is also required when staff interact with guests in dropping off or picking up materials.

When materials are returned, the library staff will be using sanitizing wipes to wipe down covers and cases.

“They will sit on a ‘quarantine cart’ for 72 hours, which is above and beyond recommendations, before they are on their way to the next patron,” Compoe said.

At the Buchanan District Library, director Meg Paulette has been doing a lot of organizing since getting back into the building.

“What we’ve been doing is fulfilling requests from while we were closed first,” Paulette said. “We have had some people call, and we’re telling them that we will take care of people who called first.  We have a pretty big pile of requests to get through. That’s our priority.”

As newspaper subscriptions and magazines kept being delivered during closure, and materials were returned as well, the work began before fulfilling curbside requests.

Paulette said that the library is hoping to reach its patrons who do not currently have access to internet service.
“They can come down and knock on the glass, and we’ll get them taken care of,” Paulette said.

Summer reading programs will continue at both library locations, with a heavy focus with online participation. The Niles District Library staff is currently working on its programming.

Paulette pointed out sign up forms that are available on the outside of the Buchanan District Library’s front door. Those who fill out the hard copy form are encouraged to submit it through the library’s material return slot. Books have been chosen for its summer reading programs for the Young Adult Book Club and Middle School Book Club, and are listed on the library’s Facebook page.

Across the county lines, the Dowagiac District Library and the Cass District Library have also posted curbside service hours beginning Monday.

At the Dowagiac District Library, the staff will operate a short pickup time between 1 to 3 p.m. through the week. Cass District Library branches have individual hours posted on the Cass District Library Facebook page.

“Our plan has four phases,” Cass District Library director Barbara Gordon told Leader Publications in May. “It’s a phased reopening plan, which is really similar to how the state itself is being reopened.”