Using libraries during quarantine

Books read
Library pandemic procedures: What you should know.

In my efforts to read the New York Times top 10 books of 2020 before April 1, I’ve been using a combination of ways to acquire those books, some of them were purchased on Amazon courtesy of a gift card I received for the holidays, but I’ve also placed holds on all of them through my local library. As you can imagine, if they were rated New York Times top 10, there is a bit of a queue for some of the books. The result has been a steady pace of acquiring the books, moving them to the top of my to-read pile, as there is a clock ticking for them, and banging them out before I move on to those that I’ve read. You may believe, at this point, that I’ve digressed from the point of this particular blog post, which is library practices during quarantine, but I have a point.

Deacon King Kong became available to me for pickup from the library last week. Coincidentally, I was also two days delinquent in returning Homeland Elegies; so, as I meandered up to the library, I took Homeland Elegies in with me and thought “I’ll hand check it in so that the clock stops on my late fee, I can pay it and rent Deacon King Kong; easy peasy.” What I came to find out is that the book I was returning had become an untouchable, would need to quarantine before being recirculated and I would not be penalized with a late fee! Mind successfully blown at this point, I checked out Deacon King Kong, slid Homeland Elegies into the slot on the way out the door and rushed home to check out the detailed COVID-19 pandemic practices of the library so that I would not have important information such as this slip under my radar any longer.

Two of the New York Times top 10 books of 2020 that I’ve completed thus far.

Adjusted hours of operation

This one, I had known previously from when I tried to come and get Homeland Elegies on a Tuesday lunch break, all to find out that my library did not open until 1 p.m. on Tuesdays at this point. It was a major face-palm moment, during which, I might add, I was freezing my tushy off. So, lesson learned, public and private institutions alike have adjusted their hours for one reason or another (to accommodate for advanced cleaning or lack of staff, for example) so be sure to head over to the library’s website to check hours before bundling yourself up, driving over to the library on the precious few minutes of your lunch break and gaining nothing but cold feet.

Quarantined books

According to my own library’s website, books are quarantined for 72 hours before they are checked into the library, a time period for which you are not charged overdue fees. And, right there in black and white is what this nice librarian with an expression that said “I can’t touch that book” informed me of during my recent trip: “Please return library materials in our exterior book drop only.” Fair enough.

Another nice note I found in reading this: When the library closed down, along with schools and other government-funded buildings in the first half of 2020, they extended everyone’s checked out materials automatically. It makes perfect sense but was one of those details I would never have begun to think about.

No late fees

Currently reading, courtesy of the library.

Right there, in shouty capitals and bold lettering, on the FAQ section for COVID response is that coveted wording for those individuals, like myself, who tend to forget within a few days of a book’s recall date: NO FINES ACCRUED. This is promptly when the emoji with her brain popping off the top of her dome piece became a truly accurate description of my expression.

Of course there are down sides to this, mainly the lack of enforcement for books that you’re waiting on if you’re in the queue being my biggest concern, but also how does the library stay afloat without my about $20 contribution each year for my late-returning ways? Perhaps I’ll get into the economics of public library systems in a different post.

Enjoy this luxury

I’ve certainly taken the library for granted in my time on this planet. I became obviously aware of this when my sister studied abroad in Italy and I suggested she go to the library, a remark that got me a smart comment about being such an American so as to think that everywhere had libraries and, if that did, that you could just take books out. That being said, the library is far-reaching. In the age of electronic means of reading books, via audio or e-book format, simply having an Internet connection and a registered library card will give you access to more books than is easily consumed. (If you don’t know about OverDrive and Libby, the applications that allow you to borrow electronic book materials from the library, read more here.)

Getting off my soap box now: Have you enjoyed the library services amid the pandemic? What has changed, if anything, in your area?

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