‘We find ourselves needing to essentially reinvent ourselves’

Neill Public Library will begin curbside pick up June 15; WSU Pullman libraries will remain closed for the summer



Since Neill Public Library was founded in 1922 by American Association of University Women, it has been in seven different locations and collected 100,000 books.

LOREN NEGRON, Evergreen editor-in-chief

Neill Public Library will begin its curbside pick-up service June 15, which will be available 1-6 p.m. Monday to Friday.

It’s been really interesting for public libraries because we have spent a lifetime positioning ourselves as community-gathering spaces,” said NPL Director Joanna Bailey. “We find ourselves needing to essentially reinvent ourselves.”

Although Whitman County is now in Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start Washington Plan, Bailey said NPL will remain closed until they receive guidelines for library services from the governor’s office.

Without those guidelines, NPL is permitted to only provide services that are authorized in Phase 2, she said. This includes mail order and curbside pick up.

NPL’s curbside pick up will happen by the outdoor patio on the north end of the library. Library patrons would park in a marked parking stall and call the library upon arrival, Bailey said. If patrons are in their cars, they will be asked to open their trunk, so staff members can deliver materials without touching too many surfaces.

She said library materials will be placed in Ziploc bags. Materials will also be disinfected before they are given to patrons. Returned items will be quarantined for 72 hours.

“It’s a necessary process because it ensures that the materials we are giving back to patrons are safe and ready for them,” Bailey said.

Library patrons can place requests on books and movies by calling NPL or through the library’s online catalog, she said. Individuals will receive emails when their requested items are ready to be picked up.

With the transition to curbside pick up, NPL will resume its three-week checkout period, Bailey said. 

“It’s really been interesting and challenging to take our traditional method of service and completely reimagine it,” Bailey said.

Although NPL is currently closed to the public, it is still providing various services online. One of the services the library provides is through a website called Lynda.com. She said this is a skill-building platform that is available for free to library patrons. Individuals can take various courses like coding and photography.

This free service is from a subsidy provided by the Washington State Library, Bailey said.

“There would be no way, under normal circumstances, that our library budget could afford that,” she said. “It’s a very expensive database.”

Currently, NPL only has four employees. Bailey said 24 employees were furloughed.

All work stations are spread out in the library. Employees are pre-screened before starting their shifts. They are also required to wear masks in the building and use gloves properly, she said

“The health and safety of our staff and patrons is our top priority,” Bailey said.

WSU Dean of Libraries Jay Starratt said WSU Pullman libraries will remain closed this summer. He said the current plan is to reopen when fall starts.

“Right now, we don’t plan to do anything about opening until the start of the semester,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do to make it ready for that.”

Starratt said the libraries currently do not have ample personal protective gear and cleaning supplies. They plan to stock on these materials before fall begins.

He said the academic libraries in the state are having regular meetings to help libraries find the best strategies in ensuring spaces are safe and accessible for the public.

They will develop a plan this summer to ensure WSU Pullman libraries can open safely in the fall, Starratt said.

All due dates have been extended to Sept. 28. Individuals who checked out books received emails regarding the new due date. There will be no fines on those books, he said.

Although WSU Pullman libraries will remain closed this summer, they will continue to provide services online, he said. These services include instruction, reference and interlibrary loans. 

More information about their services can be found on the WSU Pullman libraries website.

“Most of our services can be done remotely, so we’re still able to help,” Starratt said.