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Sonoma County Library eyes curbside pickup, awaits county’s OK

The Sonoma County Library is devising plans to reopen its branches with limited curbside service, though it is awaiting permission from the county’s health officer before resuming operations.

The 15-branch system closed March 17, one day before Sonoma County Public Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase announced all nonessential business would need to stop operations to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.

While commercial bookstores and a host of other businesses were allowed to begin offering curbside pickup last week, public libraries remain closed. The county’s public library is waiting for permission from Mase to reopen, library director Ann Hammond said.

“We’re following the guidelines and the orders,” Hammond said. “We’re ready to go as soon as we get the OK from the county health officer.”

On Thursday, Mase said she believed public libraries could now offer curbside pickup, though it would take more time before branches allowed visitors inside.

While library officials have been in contact with her office, Mase had not yet notified them of the ability to offer curbside service as of Thursday afternoon, she said.

“We’re planning to give them that guidance,” she said.

Hammond welcomed the news and anticipated her staff would too. Library personnel must clean and organize supplies before they are able to offer curbside services, however, a process that could last until late May or early June for some branches, she said.

“They’re eager to get back into the libraries and start providing materials for people who have been waiting so long,” Hammond said.

The more than eight-week closure of Sonoma County’s public library system has led to frustration among some Sonoma County residents, who say they rely on their local library branch to access physical copies of books and magazines.

Cloverdale resident Wayne Diggs said he visited his local branch about once a week before coronavirus rules closed it down. While the library has promoted its digital resources since then, including free access to e-books, Diggs said the selection doesn’t appeal to his interests and lacks newer titles.

“I prefer to have a book in my hand,” Diggs added.

Mary Jenkins, of Santa Rosa, said she would have liked to see the library use more innovation during the pandemic, though she did credit it for giving her access to a collection of online instructional videos she’s used to sharpen her drawing skills since the pandemic began.

“I really do understand why things have been closed so far, but I kind of feel like we’re entering into this new phase,” Jenkins said.

A specific concern for the library is the fact that books borrowed from its branches are eventually returned, and can carry the coronavirus for several hours or days depending on the surface, Hammond said, citing an article from the National Institutes of Health, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

“Can we put them in a truck, in a storeroom, and how do we do that and maintain the safety of our staff?” Hammond said.

An order the library made for masks is expected to arrive sometime this week, and the system has enough gloves and hand sanitizer to begin curbside service, Hammond said.

The library continues to pay 150 full-time staff and 59 part-time employees, while a pool of occasional workers have not been scheduled to work during the pandemic, Hammond said. Most employees are working from home, with duties ranging from answering calls and emails to the libraries to hosting virtual story time on social media.

The library has had no layoffs since the pandemic began, spokesman Ray Holley said.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

Nashelly Chavez

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Press Democrat 

Who calls the North Bay home and how do their backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other factors shape their experiences? What cultures, traditions and religions are celebrated where we live? These are the questions that drive me as I cover diversity, equity and inclusion in Sonoma County and beyond.   

 

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