FAIRFIELD — The Fairfield Public Library will expand its hours for curbside delivery as part of a broader push toward reopening, according to library director Rebecca Johnson.
The library has been closed to foot traffic since mid-March, but shortly after closing its doors, it began a program whereby patrons could check out books and other items online or over the phone, then pick them up outside the library. Johnson said it was among the first libraries in the region to offer such a service, which some libraries are just now starting to offer two months later.
The library’s board of directors met Monday, May 18, and decided to call its staff back into the building and to expand its curbside delivery into the evening so patrons could use it after work. The library had been offering the service from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but it will now extend that until 6 p.m.
For the last three weeks or so, the library has been staffed by three employees who have been responsible for processing all of the checkout requests. The other eight employees are either working from home or volunteered to be furloughed. Some, like children’s librarian Afton Pedrick, are posting videos online, so kids can follow along with story time just as if they were at the library. Children can get activity kits through curbside delivery.
“With the increased number of COVID-19 cases in Iowa, many of our staff members requested a furlough,” Johnson said. “Our furloughed staff have been self-isolating since April 27, but this week, we’re calling them back with many new safety routines in place.”
Among the new safety procedures are sneeze guards for the front desk and youth services work stations, as well as better quality masks. Johnson said all surfaces in the building will be disinfected more frequently than normal, and only one person will handle returned materials at a time. Returned materials will still be put in quarantine just like they have been the last two months.
Johnson said that, as word has gotten out about the library’s curbside delivery service, it has grown in popularity. The library now gets about 55-60 cars each day, and received as many as 80 on Friday, May 15. To check out an item at the library, a patron must place a hold on it either through the library’s website or over the phone, and schedule a time to pick it up. When they arrive outside the library, they should call the library to alert a staffer of their presence, wait in their car for a staffer to visit him, who will need to see a photo ID, and then leave their item on the hood of their car.
The current format of having staffers process hold requests is much more labor and time-intensive for the employees than the normal setup, Johnson said.
“I came in this morning and found 70 hold requests that had accumulated just since last night, and we pull even more of them during the day,” Johnson said. “We have to check that material in, call those people, schedule an appointment, and when we turn around, we find another 50 hold requests waiting. It’s a moving target.”
Johnson said the library will remain closed on the weekends, at least for the foreseeable future. She said she wants to make sure that the new safety routines are working well before expanding hours even further. Likewise, she said the library will remain closed to foot traffic.
“This is a 21,000-square-foot building,” she said. “Trying to sanitize materials with people walking all over, it’s not humanly possible.”