The libraries were among the first public facilities to reopen this month, and patrons are learning to operate within some substantial limitations.
“We feel comfortable with all of the different precautions that are in place, not just for patrons but also for staff,” noted Carbondale Branch Librarian Lacy Dunlavy, “It’s not about what we can’t do, it’s still kind of awesome what we can do.”
An employee is posted in the entry to ensure that only two masked groups are allowed inside at a time. Media must be retrieved by staff and returned in the book drop for 72 hours of quarantine. It’s possible to ease the process by placing a hold online first.
“It definitely can speed up your transaction,” Dunlavy said. “It totally depends on how comfortable people are being in our space.”
One resource that isn’t coming back for now is public computing, although printing, scanning and faxing are available in a similar staff-service format. There’s also a wireless printing form online.
“Everything’s free right now, both because we don’t want to be handling money and for good will to the public,” Dunlavy said.
And while the indoor tables, bathrooms and drinking fountains are out of service, folks are continuing to take advantage of the outdoor tables and chairs to connect to the wifi.
“We know how busy we are and how many things we provide for how many different people,” Dunlavy observed. “There were people that were just waiting for us to be open in any capacity to do these really basic things.”
Even during the closure, libraries across Garfield County made efforts to continue connecting. Almost immediately, the district launched the Hoopla streaming service for movies, audiobooks and comics — a move that was already in the works, according to Assistant Executive Director Amy Shipley. The whole process was helped by a mill levy increase approved by voters last fall.
“With the new funding that we have, building a world-class library collection was really one of our priorities,” Shipley noted. “We’re really more insulated from an event like this than we would have been.”
In addition to content from elsewhere, the libraries also made a point of producing their own, including a series of virtual events.
“We’ve really just worked hard to figure out what would be energizing and entertaining right now as well as informative,” Shipley said.
Recorded storytimes have been particularly popular, with youth service coordinators from around the county taking turns to keep a steady stream of stories coming.
“Kids get to know their librarian, and they really get an attachment to that person and storytime,” Shipley said. “We’re getting live participation, but the viewing of the recordings is getting even more traction.”
The virtual programming includes offerings for all ages, much of which is available for later viewing if viewers miss the live show. A poetry slam series took place last month, and a screening and discussion of “The Mask You Live In” is in the works.
As for what the future holds in the buildings themselves, it’s kind of up in the air.
“People have been coming back pretty slowly, so we do have capacity to serve more people,” Shipley said. “We’re just constantly monitoring the information that’s coming from the state and the county to determine what our level of service should be. Stay tuned to our Facebook page and library website for our upcoming events.”
Dunlavy acknowledged that it’s a lot to navigate.
“If you have any questions or reservations, just give us a call and we’ll help you figure it out,” she said.
Carbondale Branch Library hours
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays
2 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays
2 to 6 p.m. Thursdays
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays