Library’s virtual service demands skyrocket during pandemic
Angela Reinhardt / Photo
Pickens Library Branch Manager Emma Ingle, wearing a custom Sequoyah Regional Library System face mask, gets book orders ready for pickup through their new contactless “Sidewalk Service.”
It couldn’t be called a stream of people by any stretch, but during the brief window I was at the Pickens County Library last week, two people picked up books curbside and two others returned books they had likely had since branches closed in March.
The building itself is still closed to patrons, but the local library and all branches in the Sequoyah Regional Library System have started to offer services as part of their phased reopening. Book checkouts are now being performed through a contact-free sidewalk service, and book returns are all done through the drop box.
“It’s starting to pick up as people figure out we are offering these services,” said Pickens Library Branch Manager Emma Ingle. Books, movies, CDs, and other materials can be requested through the “Sidewalk Service” program. A library staff member contacts patrons to schedule a pick-up time Monday through Friday. Orders are placed near the library’s entrance and sorted by the recipient’s first four letters of their last name and the last four numbers of their library card.
“Our community has given incredible support to our digital collection of eBooks, audiobooks, and eMagazines during this period of social distancing,” said Sequoyah Regional Library System Executive Director Anita Summers. “With our new Sidewalk Service, we’re ecstatic to expand their options even further by reuniting readers with our physical collection of library materials.”
Ingle said library staff, none of whom have been furloughed at this point, sanitizes all books and other library materials that are checked in or checked out. People who had books checked out when branches closed in March have not accrued late fines.
As Summers said, stats released by the library system show big increases in their virtual services:
•Between April 21 and May 21, the Sequoyah Regional Library System saw a 45.5 percent increase in eBook and audiobook usage compared to the same period in 2019, with over 15,400 total checkouts.
•The total number of eBook and audiobook holds increased by 82.1 percent, while the number of unique users surpassed 3,000 (a 35.2 percent increase compared to the same period in 2019).
“Analytic data has shown that thousands of community members have engaged with the library system’s virtual programming schedule, which includes live Facebook storytimes, DIY crafting projects, health and wellness exercises, and résumé writing tips,” Ingle said.
Ingle also encourages people to take advantage of the library’s free Wi-Fi services available to the public. The local branch recently had improvements made to their system, which the manager said made their Wi-Fi signal much stronger.
“This is a wonderful resource for adults and students who may not have a reliable internet connection at their home,” she said. “People can just pull into the parking lot and use it on their laptop or devices there.”
No password is required.
Library users can also apply for a library card, renew an existing card, set up an account for eBooks, and request other assistance from a staff member on their website or social media.
The library system is offering a variety of other virtual services, including a reader’s advisory program, “What to Read Next,” and an online summer reading program. See “Between the Bookends” on page 11A for more information about the summer reading program and safety protocols library staff is taking during this phase of reopening.
Learn more at www.sequoyahregionallibrary.org or contact the Pickens County Library at 706-692-5411.