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Librarians, visitors adapt to new practices for checking out materials

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Erica Ford and her sons, Asher and Vincent, right, head to the checkout counter with books they selected at the Orem Public Library on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

OREM — Libraries are gradually reopening and expanding services alongside the loosening coronavirus restrictions, yet it will be some time before Utahns are able to spend the day sifting through shelves and lounging in reading areas again.

While practices differ from library to library and city to city, visitors are adapting to the new normal in different ways — some taking it in stride, others frustrated at continued impositions.

The Orem Public Library is now allowing visitors to browse shelves and personally select the materials they wish to check out, according to library director Charlene Crozier. And appointments and masks are strongly required.

Lounging in the chairs and using the computers to study is still off the table, likely for “quite some time,” she said.

“That’s mostly to control the level of time that any one person has the opportunity to expose anyone else,” Crozier explained.

The first hour of the day is specifically reserved for senior citizens and high-risk individuals. Operating times are limited, though Crozier said the library will continue to add additional hours and services as time goes on.

A steady stream of people filtered in and out of the library’s doors Tuesday morning. Visitors wearing masks clutched materials to their chests as they strode back into the sunlight and walked back to their cars.

Among them was Cherene Giles, who has been checking out materials at the Orem library for decades. Since the library resumed services a few weeks ago, Giles said she’s been back many times.

“It’s fantastic. We missed the library when it was closed,” she said.

Crozier said the public has been appreciative of the opportunity to return to the library for browsing. She said visitors are receptive to wearing masks, social distancing guidelines and other policies, including the practice of quarantining items for at least three days once they are returned.

“They’ve been patient, they’ve been supportive and we have been really grateful that they’ve come back to the library,” she said.


Meredith and Laura Nielsen return books at Whitmore Library in Cottonwood Heights on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. The Salt Lake County Library is beginning to reopen its branches amid COVID-19.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The Salt Lake County Library system began curbside pickup services Tuesday morning after more than two months of closure.

The community has embraced the service with a great deal of excitement, according to Sara Neal, marketing and communications manager for the library system, with 300 people booking appointments for the reopening.

Visitors can book an appointment and drive to their respective library upon their time slot. There, librarians bundle the visitor’s materials and leave it outside to ensure social distancing during the exchange.

The library also resumed book drop return services about a week ago.

Neal explained this didn’t happen sooner because during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, “nobody had a great understanding” how the virus is spread so they told patrons to hold onto their materials.

BJ Martin, a patron of the Whitmore Library, was one of the first to pick up materials Tuesday morning. Martin said the process went quite smoothly, but expressed some frustrations with the delay to return library materials.

She said she believes the delay to open the book drop was a“bit botched up” and that library staff are likely now being “bombarded by books” since people haven’t been able to return materials for some time.

Martin said she also hopes visitors will be able to start browsing again soon.

“They are fixing the books ahead of time that are being held for you. I thought that went smoothly,” she said. “I am just disappointed that you can’t go in.”

According to Neal, opening back up in that capacity could take some time.

“With every organization it’s a moving target, but based on what we are hearing from the county health department and county leadership we are hoping that by early July we will be able to open in some capacity,” she said.

Librarians are looking into holding appointments for services like research consultation. They also hope to to open up computer access again soon.