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Sonoma County Library to begin curbside pickup at five branches

The Sonoma County Library will launch curbside pickup Monday at five branches, ending a nearly 11-week interruption to the lending of books and other physical media.

The library system, which closed branches in mid-March in response to health orders designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus, has spent the past week preparing to reopen after receiving the green light to offer curbside pickup from the county’s public health director on May 22.

The move will allow staff to expand the library’s offerings beyond what’s available through digital lending programs, which some patrons critiqued as having too few titles and being a poor substitute for physical materials.

The downtown Santa Rosa library, along with branches in Guerneville, Rohnert Park, Sonoma Valley and Windsor, will be the first to offer the curbside services, Library Director Ann Hammond said. They were selected because they covered geographically diverse communities in Sonoma County.

The five locations will serve as a trial run for staff before the library system extends curbside services at eight additional branches in about a week or two, time they’ll use to gauge what modifications should be made before the expansion. The Forestville branch, which operates out of El Molino High School, and one in Occidental have no estimated reopening date.

“It’s a baby step, but it’s a start,” Hammond said. “When we’re not able to have those face-to-face encounters and provide people with information, that’s been difficult for us.”

To arrange curbside pickup, patrons will need to request the items they want to check out either by filling out an online form at sonomalibrary.org or by calling one of the five library locations between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Only books, DVDs, CDs and other materials already located at the five locations will be available for checkout from each specific location. Materials can be located in the library’s online catalog.

The library will send notifications by phone or email when items are ready for pickup. Patrons will then go to the library and call staff to inform them that they’ve arrived and to provide them with their name and library card number. Employees will then place marked bags at a table in a designated area, where library card holders can retrieve their items, the library’s website said.

Staff began a two-day virtual training on how to properly wear masks and disinfect surfaces and equipment on Friday in the lead-up to the library’s curbside pickup debut on Monday. A deep cleaning of the five facilities involved and the dispersal of personal protective equipment for employees will be completed by the start of the week as well, Hammond said.

The library will continue to ask people with borrowed items to keep them at home, including those who checked out materials before the pandemic began, without penalty. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services still have not provided clear information about how long the virus can live on various types of materials, such as paper or plastic, Hammond said.

“As soon as we have that understanding, we’ll be willing to accept returns,” Hammond said.

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

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