Mid-valley libraries are starting to reopen, but the big ones in Corvallis and Albany likely are a ways away from joining the club.
Lebanon opened June 15, with Sweet Home following suit the next day. Hours are shorter, new coronavirus-fueled protocols are in place and much of the usual programming is virtual, but the opportunities are there for kids who want to keep up on their reading this summer.
Here is a look at how each library is handling the situation:
Director Kendra Antila said she was surprised at the low turnout in the first few days of the reopening, noting that perhaps not all customers were aware of the opening and some might be taking a cautious approach with regard to when to visit.
The library plans to offer a summer reading program in July, but there will be no group gatherings or celebrations.
“It hurts our heart because it’s a big deal, it’s very fun. It’s very important for kids and families. We’ll make up for it next summer,” Antila said.
The library, at 55 Academy Street, is open noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with curbside pickup of items from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Call 541-258-4926 or go to www.lebanonoregon.gov/library for more information.
Patrons are encouraged — but not required — to wear masks and a ceiling of 20 patrons is in place. Computers are available for reservations with a maximum of 45 minutes of time.
Library staff will clean the computers after each use. Plexiglas shields are at the circulation desk, hand sanitizer is available and floor markers are in place to ensure social distancing.
The library, at 1101 13th Ave., is open Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 6 p.m. and Friday and Saturday noon to 4 p.m. Curbside pickup runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
For information, including computer reservations, call 541-367-5007 or go to https://www.sweethomeor.gov/library.
“We are being very cautious and methodical about the reopening of our large public facilities such as the main library and the branches,” said Patrick Rollens, public information officer for the city.
“The main library in particular will need considerable re-engineering of the interior spaces to accomplish physical distancing and revising lots of staff operations to ensure that we can safely process all of the materials that the library circulates during normal operations.”
In the meantime the library continues to break its own records for delivery service, said director Ashlee Chavez. A total of nearly 8,000 deliveries have been made to the more than 3,000 patrons who have signed up for the service. More than 32,000 items have been checked out.
The weekly high for deliveries is 1,521, with Chavez predicting that record will fall this week.
“We are working on launching limited in-person services and computer access at all locations into the summer,” Chavez said, although she has no specific timetable.
Chavez did say that the branches of the countywide system in Alsea and Monroe will open before the ones in Philomath and Corvallis.
In the meantime many of the usual summer services are being offered on a virtual basis.
For more information go to www.cbcpubliclibrary.net or call 541-766-6793.
Like his counterpart in Corvallis, Albany Library Director Eric Ikenouye has no timetable for when his two branches will reopen. And being closed has forced him to come up with a different definition of success.
“We have had to focus on our small-scale successes: six happy teens playing Dungeons and Dragons virtually, helping a patron finally learn how to use that tablet to access eBooks,” Ikenouye said. “Sometimes just the act of answering the phone when a patron would call with a simple question that led to conversation providing a few minutes of connection for both the patron and staff.”
Albany added curbside pickup June 8 and “demand has been through the roof,” Ikenouye said. Beginning Saturday, pickup will be available at the farmers’ market.
More than 1,500 people have signed up for a virtual summer reading program and virtual story times also are being conducted.
A big part of the challenge for Ikenouye and his staff is coming to grips with what the library cannot be right now.
“We have had to communicate to the patrons that this will not be the library that they are used to,” he said. “There will not be toys in the children’s area, and there will not be places for patrons to sit and hang out. The library is usually like a living room for anyone to come and just be, but that will not be the case for a long time."
For information call 541-917-7580 or go to email@example.com.
Lebanon Express reporter Les Gehrett contributed to this report.
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