Whitman County libraries open to public again

Patrons can browse bookshelves for 15 minutes, use curbside pick up or grab & go to check out books

Community+members+used+the+Whitman+County+Library+as+a+gathering+space%2C+but+with+COVID-19+restrictions%2C+staff+members+are+getting+creative+with+how+to+provide+books+to+patrons.

COURTESY OF CATALINA FLORES

Community members used the Whitman County Library as a gathering space, but with COVID-19 restrictions, staff members are getting creative with how to provide books to patrons.

JENAE LAXSON, Evergreen reporter

After months of offering only online resources, the Whitman County libraries announced it will reopen all 14 branches across the county.

While the libraries are reopening, the services offered are limited to comply with state guidelines. Services will be limited to curbside pickup, a grab-and-go service and a 15-minute browsing period, said Public Services Manager Catalina Flores. There is no seating available.

“We were looking to give the patron the least amount of exposure, but still allow them to get the book that they are looking for,” Flores said.

The Albion Library remains closed due to construction. It will provide curbside pickup once completed, but not browsing. The number of services and building capacity depends on the location and square footage of the library, she said.

“The Albion Library does share space with the food pantry and the town clerk city hall, so they’re monitoring traffic flow,” Flores said.

The Whitman County Libraries are trying to encourage the use of online resources. Books can be downloaded for free using the Libby app, said Nichole Kopp, teen services librarian and staff coordinator.

“Our hope is that we’ll have more online programming for them,” Kopp said. “In the past, students have been able to come in and attend after school programming.”

The libraries try to support students by offering credible online resources for parents, teens and youth to have access to, including finding ways to supply devices, she said.

On the library webpage, we have a parent tab, a kid tab and a teen tab. The parent’s tab provides online learning resources for those trying to get back into homeschooling, Flores said. 

Kopp said she thinks having an in-person service will encourage more WSU students to use their resources. 

“I think all of our patrons will benefit from the reopening,” she said. “Everyone is looking for that little bit of time out of the house, and being able to get that hands-on experience with a book.”

Before COVID-19 happened, people considered libraries as their second home. Community members could visit with each other, but due to the pandemic library staff wants to limit socializing, Flores said.

“We don’t want to, but we want to follow the guidelines,” she said. 

The library staff is excited to open again, it has been months since they have been able to serve their patrons, Kopp said.