FAIRFIELD — Businesses and public entities are experimenting with new methods to serve the public in these radically changing times where person-to-person contact must be kept to a minimum.
The Fairfield Public Library, which has closed its doors to the public but not its collection, is allowing patrons to check out books, magazines, CDs, DVDs — and everything else that can normally be taken out of the library — through “curbside delivery.” It means that patrons can call the library to request an item, or request a hold on an item through the library’s website, and it will be waiting for them when they drive to the library.
A staff member will deliver the items to them in their car. Patrons are asked to park directly in front of the building’s north entrance and remain in their car while they phone the library. A staffer will verify the patron by looking through their closed window to their photo ID. The staffer will then place the bag of library materials on the hood of the vehicle and return to the library. Those who do not have a cellphone to call the library when they have arrived can arrange a time during its new hours, which are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The library is implementing another procedure to ensure the coronavirus is not spread on returned materials. All materials should be returned to the library through its drop box in the alley on the south side of the building. After they are put in the drop box, a staffer will quarantine the items for three days before they return to the shelves and can be checked out by the next patron. Fairfield Library Director Rebecca Johnson said the American Library Association recommended that libraries quarantine materials for 24-48 hours. To play it safe, Johnson added another 24 hours onto that recommendation to come up with a three-day quarantine.
“Staff members who quarantine returned materials wear masks, gloves and wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water,” Johnson said. “We also maintain social distance from one another as we work on special projects. Anyone who is symptomatic at all — such as a cough, sneeze or fever — is told to stay home.”
Johnson added that, because of the three-day quarantine, the public should be aware that new materials in high demand may not be available when they want them. She encourages patrons to browse the library’s online catalog by using its “Amazon” feature where they can see recommended titles based on the books they’ve read before.
“You may just find your next great read,” she said. “And if you’d like help, just call the front desk. We can recommend titles that are similar to what you’ve enjoyed.”
Unfortunately, much of the library’s programming like its story time and ‘How-To Tuesdays’ is suspended until further notice. But not all is lost. Johnson said that book clubs and roundtables will continue through “virtual meetings” using a remote conference call feature. Patrons who preregistered to participate in the Wednesday Matinee Book Club, Sierra Book Club, History Roundtable, and Foreign Affairs Roundtable are still welcome to attend remotely. To learn how to partake in these discussions, call the library at 641-472-6551 extension 2.
Lastly, the library’s vast array of online resources still is available on its website. This includes services such as BrainFuse for conducting a job search, free e-books and audiobooks on BRIDGES, how to practice for a driving test at the DMV, learn skills and get certifications at Lynda.com, study a foreign language on Transparent Language, and much more.
Johnson said she got the idea to implement curbside delivery after attending a library conference in Nashville in February. The service wasn’t even mentioned in the context of coronavirus, but when Johnson learned the library would have to close to the public, she recalled what she learned at that conference and put it into action.
“I like that we can still serve our patrons while keeping people safe,” she said.