COOS BAY — While the county waits to see how Phase 1 of reopening progresses, the Coos Bay Public Library continues to offer as many services as it can from afar.
For right now, the library does not plan to open its doors to the 600-plus daily patrons that frequented the space prior to the pandemic. According to Coos Bay Public Library Director Sami Pierson, there are likely many steps between the services being offered now and a complete reopening.
“We miss our patrons and we hope they miss us too, but right now for everyone’s safety we’re doing what we can do,” Pierson said.
The first step to reopening the library will be offering curbside pickup for library materials once again. The service was offered in the early days of the pandemic but had to be discontinued to comply with state orders.
Curbside service will depend on how Coos County performs in Phase 1. However, Pierson was careful to point out that there is no exact timeline or date for this step, or for the library's actions as the county moves into Phase 2.
“After that, the timeline gets squishier. It will depend on how things are in the county. We don’t want to be closed forever,” Pierson said.
The next step to reopening after curbside pickup would likely be opening certain sections of the library to patrons. This would involve allowing patrons to physically browse some sections and not others, in an effort to limit exposure and the amount of cleaning that would need to occur each day.
While some sections would be closed to physical access, library staff would still be available to retrieve materials in closed sections for patrons. Which sections might be left open and which might be temporarily restricted has not been decided yet.
A large consideration for opening portions of the library is access to cleaning supplies and masks. Presently, the library does not have consistent access to these supplies.
“That’s a biggie,” Pierson said, “We want to make sure we’re able to clean thoroughly and keep as safe as possible.”
In the interim, library staff has worked to bring services into the digital space.
For example, the summer reading program that has been traditionally held in the library building is moving online this year. Those who planned to make presentations are working with staff to hold the presentations digitally. The catalog can be browsed from the library’s website, where users can place holds on physical materials.
The library also has three separate services for renting ebooks: Hoopla, Library2Go and TumbleBooks. Predictably, the library has seen an uptick in the use of these services.
Live programming is still ongoing, just using technology. Story time is being held each Wednesday using the free program Zoom. The library hosts book talks on Facebook Live. The Spanglish program is also hosted on Zoom, as are other programs and groups.
Much of the library’s programming has been moved online, but the library has also worked to open up services to those who prefer analog to digital. For example, holds are now being delivered by mail at the rate of over 100 packages each day.
“We don’t want to be 100% digital, because it’s not equitable. There are people who use us as a community center and they can’t be in here. We want to fill those needs, too,” Pierson said.
To do this, the library ensures that staffers are available by phone to patrons to help navigate those services that don’t require an internet connection.
Staff confirmed the mailing addresses of patrons early in the pandemic to make sure holds could be mailed.
Further, the library offers Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, or STEAM kits to younger patrons. These are mailed out weekly. While library staffers make a YouTube video to go with the kits each week, the kit include instructions so that those with limited or no online access can still participate.
However, some programs and resources may need to change entirely or require special technical solutions. Once the library is able to offer the use of its computers to the public again, staff will have to change the way they approach the service.
While it’s easy to create social distancing space at the library’s computers, by removing some of them, it’s harder to solve the issue of offering technical help to patrons. Library staff often need to help patrons with computer issues, Pierson said.
“But that requires you to be right next to them,” she explained.
Instead, the library is looking into ways staff can remotely access computers so staffers don’t need to share keyboards and mice with patrons, or stand too closely to them. Further, staffers will need to clean the computers between each use. The library is working on coming up with solutions to these problems so that when reopening happens, it will go smoothly.
Those patrons who want to use the library’s digital resources can find them online at coosbaylibrary.org. Or, as always, library staffers are available to help by phone at 541-269-1101, Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.