In-building services are back at 18 community libraries

Sno-Isle Libraries has introduced limited in-building services in 18 of its 23 community libraries while all 23 libraries continue to offer contact-free services, including loans of laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots, and online services.

Customer browses Sultan Library shelf
Donna Tarver browses audiobooks at the Sultan Library on March 22, when customers could come back for in-building services.

Using social distancing guidelines and coronavirus safety protocols, Sno-Isle Libraries studied which of its community libraries could safely offer “grab-n-go” in-building services while still providing contact-free delivery services.

“Our goal is to serve our customers under the evolving state health guidelines,” Sno-Isle Libraries Director of Public Services Rebecca Loney said. “We remain committed to the safety of our customers and employees.”

Customers will see changes when they walk into their community library. Most sitting areas have been removed to encourage customers to move through the library so that other customers can browse, too.

In response to the reintroduction of in-building services, customers have expressed excitement, joy and happiness when they discover their community library is back after a year.

“I cried when I came in,” Sultan Library customer Donna Tarver said as she browsed. “I didn’t realize how much I missed it. I missed it terribly.”

Amelia Kahler of Arlington was overjoyed to return to the Granite Falls Library.

“I am so excited!” she said. “This is one of my favorite places to come.”

She started looking through videos for something her husband might like before she browsed for a mystery novel.

“I don’t know what to look at!” she said.

In-building services vary by location.

Most libraries offering in-building services currently have browsing access to the collection. At some locations that is available in the library and in others the meeting rooms are set up for browsing a curated selection of items.

The number of customers allowed inside each library at a time is currently limited to not exceed current state guidelines. Customers are also asked to limit their in-building visits to 30 minutes or less. Customers can check out items using a self-serve kiosk or with staff, depending on each library’s layout.

Checkouts of laptop computers and Wi-Fi hotspots are available at all community libraries. In addition, in-building computers with printing, copying and scanning are available for use in Brier, Coupeville, Darrington, Edmonds, Granite Falls, Langley, Mariner, Monroe and Sultan. The public computers have medical-grade keyboards that are disinfected between customers.

Library staff and managers are equally glad to see customers returning to the buildings, even with everyone wearing face coverings.

When the Oak Harbor Library began in-building services on March 22, Public Services Assistant Heidi Smith greeted a customer who asked to use a public computer.

“The customer said that they were really looking to print off an application for Island Transit, which is one of our partners,” Children’s Librarian Chelsea Cooper said. “Heidi referred the customer to me and I was able to quickly print out the application for them. The customer was so excited and impressed with our fast service!”

Sno-Isle Libraries will continue to adapt to public-health guidelines and adjust services.

The Marysville Library began in-building services with an innovative model of offering public computer access and printing in its meeting room. Staff there are now in the process of planning to offer some in-library collection browsing to customers.

In Mountlake Terrace, construction is nearing completion on the adjacent City Hall project. Until that project is complete, conditions mean that Mountlake Terrace will also focus on contact-free services.

Due to physical space limitations, the Arlington, Clinton, Lake Stevens and Mill Creek libraries will continue to focus on contact-free services while coronavirus safety precautions remain in effect.

Go to sno-isle.org/locations to see operating hours and the specific in-person services each community library offers.

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