When Sno-Isle Libraries might reopen to the public was a topic addressed by Sno-Isle’s Executive Director Lois Langer Thompson during the county’s COVID-19 Monday briefing.
“We love that people really want us open; that makes me really happy,” Langer Thompson said. The library system is following Gov. Jay Inslee’s phased approach, in which libraries are included in Phase Three for reopening. “We will not go ahead of that,” she said.
All 23 libraries shut down on March 13, including the library on wheels program. Thompson says the system has kept and expanded online offerings, and the libraries’ free WiFi connection works in their parking lots; just drive in and keep a safe social distance. Half those using the Wi-Fi, Langer Thompson adds, are people using Zoom to connect with families or work.
In a letter to My Edmonds News, Edmonds resident Christine Koch expressed her frustration about the libraries being closed. She suggested that the branches reopen Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays for customers to stand in line — using social distancing and in masks — for “book takeout’ for items they have reserved at the hold desk.
Library Trustee Susan Kostick replied, saying she too misses having Sno-Isle open, but that libraries must support limiting access to many “high-touch” items. “Just think,” wrote Kostick, “about how many people handle the books, magazines, computers, kiosks, and furniture.”
Thompson says she hopes that Sno-Isle can offer a “contactless pick up” option before the libraries are allowed to fully reopen. She points to the “to go meal pick ups” as a model but is not yet certain if that can be applied to libraries.
For now, all 23 libraries have extended online access to 24/7, through www.sno-isle.org. Library staff is also still available by phone: 360-651-7000.
Anyone can apply online for a library card and get immediate access. Sno-Isle has expanded its online ebook and magazine collections and seen a 22% increase in online circulation.
For those who want to know, “When can I return the books I’ve borrowed?” that answer is “not yet.” Librarians urge readers to quarantine those items at home for 72 hours as it’s not completely clear how long the virus lasts on those materials.
To ensure they are maintaining community connections, library staff have called more than 6,000 customers to see how they are doing; whether they need help with technology or just need just someone to talk with.
In addition, Sno-Isle is offering ebook titles for local schools and online tutoring, as well as help for parents teaching at home.
The libraries’ summer reading program will kick off on June 15. Staff members are also working with Snohomish County Boys and Girls Club, the Snohomish STEM Network and the Seattle Storm to plan additional summer fun reading activities.
Thompson promises Sno-Isle libraries will live up to its promise of equity, diversity and inclusiveness and welcomes conversations on how to assure equitable access to all services.
“We are more than excited,” said Thompson, “about welcoming you all back.”
— By Bob Throndsen