Hennepin County libraries are back in business, more or less.
Patrons can reserve materials online, then go to one of the eight branches where curbside pickup service began this week.
County residents can use their library cards to put a hold on books and other items available on the library system’s website and choose the location to pick them up. Items can be picked up between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Brooklyn Park, East Lake, Eden Prairie, Maple Grove, Plymouth, Ridgedale, Washburn and Webber Park branches.
“When you have all this time at home and prefer a physical book to e-book, we wanted to find way to make it available,” said library communications manager Josh Yetman.
On Monday, the first day of the service, which was not widely announced, more than 100 patrons picked up more than 400 items, Yetman said.
Not all items in the 41-branch system’s vast collection are available, only those at the eight locations offering curbside pickup. But the program is expected to expand to more locations in the coming weeks, Yetman said.
For now as the coronavirus continues to spread, curbside pickup is limited to allow a small staff to practice physical distancing, Yetman said
Library staff will pull items from the shelves at the eight locations and notify users by phone or e-mail that they are ready for pickup. Patrons then call the library to provide their card number and schedule a pickup time. Staff members will place items in a plastic bag labeled with the patron’s hold number and set them on a cart outside the building for pickup.
The curbside service is for picking up materials only, Yetman stressed. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries are not accepting returns, even if items are already late. Due dates for materials previously checked out will be extended to three weeks after library facilities reopen.
“Please do not attempt to use curbside pickup carts to return materials,” a statement from the library system reads. “This is essential to maintain safe handling of all materials.”
Patrons who want suggestions on what to read can use the library’s “Ask Us” service, available by phone, text or e-mail. Staff “will put a stack of books out there for you,” Yetman said.
County residents without library cards can sign up for a temporary digital card. The e-cards will allow anybody to have access to the library’s online resources, including e-books and other downloads. The cards, which are free, will expire 30 days after libraries reopen.
In the first week that e-cards were offered, more than 700 people registered. The cards allow users access to resources such as e-books and online ancestry databases.
Since libraries closed in March due to COVID-19, cookbooks have been the most popular e-books checked out, Yetman said.
The Ramsey County Library also is offering curbside pickup at its branches in Maplewood, Roseville and Shoreview.