SCHENECTADY COUNTY — Turning off the lights and leaving the library was necessary, but difficult, for Schenectady County Public Library Director Karen Bradley in March. While painful, though, that was a “much easier” undertaking than figuring out how to resume service after shutting down temporarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the SCPL’s newly announced curbside pickup that starts Monday, Bradley is excited to offer the library’s services to the community again.
After weeks of meeting with the region’s libraries and deciding on reopening plans, the curbside pickup plan for the Karen B. Johnson Public Library in downtown Schenectady will start Monday. A week later, the Niskayuna and Mont Pleasant branch libraries will start curbside pickup, and on July 6 the remaining branches will do the same.
Library patrons will be able to reserve items in three ways: online, email or by phone. Brown “pick-up” bags, labeled with instructions and the patron’s name, will be prepared within a day, and a library staff member will call patrons to schedule the pickup at a “contactless pickup” table.
Even after library buildings open shop in later months, this curbside option will continue to exist for those most at-risk, Bradley said on Thursday.
“This is a service — even when we open the doors for limited access — we will continue looking into winter, until COVID is gone,” Bradley said. “We feel for anybody who feels compromised, unsafe, we’re going to continue to offer this service. We feel it is important as an option for people to feel safe.”
Book-drop returns opened on June 8, so patrons have been able to return their library books for more than a week. As patrons return their books, those items are quarantined in a designated location for three days before being placed back on shelves, based on current CDC recommendations. This allows for items to be checked out safely again.
“People are wondering about the books and understanding that the books have to be quarantined,” Bradley says. “And, at this time, the recommendation is 72 hours. But, as the libraries meet weekly, down the road, if more information becomes known about the disease, we would adjust it.”
Other library systems like the Albany Public Library System, offered a Continuation of Service Plan, but has not yet announced a reopening date. The Troy Public Library is currently offering curbside pickup, too, with a step-by-step process available on its website.
“We are excited to see the libraries within our system take these careful steps toward reopening,” Mohawk Valley Library System Executive Director Eric Trahan said. “Libraries serve a vital role within the communities they serve, and we must ensure that we provide those services in a way that keeps patrons, visitors, and staff healthy and safe.”