Libraries offering limited curbside service


After more than a month of closure due to COVID-19, local libraries are preparing to open their doors just a crack.

Beginning next week, the Jasper-Dubois County Contractual Public Library — which includes the Birdseye, Dubois, Ferdinand and Jasper branches — will offer curbside service for patrons to resume checking out materials. The Huntingburg Public Library, which is separate from the contractual library, also plans to offer curbside service, but is still finalizing the details.

To check out materials at any of the contractual library’s branches, patrons will need to either call ahead or place holds on the materials through the library’s website. Staff members will then gather the materials in a bag, schedule a pickup time and set the bag in the entryway for pickup.

“It’s going to be a grab-and-go service, basically,” Library Director Christine Golden said.

The contractual library will begin offering the service Monday.

This week, the contractual library reopened its drop boxes to allow patrons to return materials, and Golden said items have been “flying” in. When items are returned, staff place them in a quarantine for 72 hours before returning them to shelves.

While the drop boxes are open, Golden said patrons do not need to return materials if they don’t feel safe to do so. The library will continue to extend due dates as long as the state’s stay-at-home order remains in place.

In addition to the curbside service, libraries are also looking at how to offer limited computer usage to patrons, as well as printing and faxing for essential documents.

“That’s been the hardest part,” Golden said. “Knowing that there are people who rely on us for those services, but not being able to help them.”

Staff at the contractual library plan to set up one computer at each branch that patrons will be able to schedule an hourlong appointment to use for essential tasks. Between appointments, staff members will disinfect the station and switch out the keyboard and mouse. Printing and faxing of essential documents will be done over the phone and email, with curbside pickup available for hard copies.

The Huntingburg Public Library has already begun offering print and fax services over the phone and through email.

As the libraries begin to offer services again, staff will follow social distancing guidelines and work in designated groups.

The gradual reopening and plans to offer curbside service are being used by libraries across the state, Golden said. She and Huntingburg Library Director Lisa McWilliams keep in contact with their colleagues at other libraries, and how to reopen and offer some services has been a major topic of conversation.

“We are all on the same page as far as wanting to provide that service to patrons,” McWilliams said.

There is no set date for when libraries will fully reopen or return to normal operations. Golden said she expects that process to differ from library to library across the state, and it may even be different for each library in Dubois County. It will all depend on what each library can offer while maintaining safety for staff and patrons.

Golden and McWilliams agreed that they and their staff are eager to get back to normal operations and provide service to patrons.

“We just can’t do that right now because we know we’d have a bunch of people in the doors,” Golden said. “We’ll take it step by step and at least get the materials in their hands for now.”

More details about curbside service and other library operations can be found on the libraries’ websites and Facebook pages.

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