Julie Chivo was all smiles after she picked up a pair of books curbside at the Mercer Island Library on a recent afternoon. One was a cookbook and the other was a book focused on eating healthier food.
Come July 7, Chivo and other book lovers will be able to step inside the library to browse through the stacks for the first time since it closed in March of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Doors will be open from 1-8 p.m. on that day.
From then on, the local library — located at 4400 88th Ave. SE — will welcome visitors from 1-8 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Those hours will hold at least until the end of the year based on staffing, according to Jenny Engstrom, King County Library System (KCLS) director of library operations.
“I can’t wait. I really missed it. Every week I come to pick up books and I finally got the hang of this system,” Chivo said of the curbside pickup that began in July of 2020. She also enjoys utilizing the library’s printer and scanner to make copies of recipes.
Anjali Patel finished her curbside pickup a few minutes before Chivo arrived and said she’s also eager to venture inside the library again. KCLS closed all of its libraries on March 13, 2020 and began reopening some of its buildings with limited hours — and frequent sanitizing of equipment — about a year later.
“It has been nice that you’ve been able to put books on hold and pick them up, but it will be great to go in and browse the shelves and look at the new releases and spend more time inside instead of just going online and selecting a book on hold,” Patel said.
Mercer Island’s curbside pickup was discontinued on July 1 so staffers could prepare the building for the July 7 reopening.
Since the state has lifted all restrictions, Engstrom said there won’t be an occupancy limit; physical distancing won’t be required; masks are optional for those who are vaccinated and required for people who aren’t; no materials will be quarantined; and there won’t be a closure during the day to sanitize equipment.
With masks and distancing, Engstrom said that patrons and employees can determine their own comfort and safety levels. There will be mask information signage posted and staffers won’t be policing patrons, Engstrom added. Masks will be available on site for those who wish to use them.
“It should be a pretty typical library experience for people who are comfortable doing that,” Engstrom said. “The (KCLS) staff are so excited. There was a lot of nerves earlier on about it and being comfortable and feeling safe.”
For the time being, in-person programming like Storytime and other events will not be on the docket, but will continue online. Each branch will determine when they’re set to open meeting and study rooms.
Back in March of this year, the six libraries that were reopened had low curbside pickup usage, while Mercer Island’s and other locations had a robust usage to keep those programs intact and doors closed. By July 14, all KCLS locations should be open with Valley View in Seatac being the last one on the list.