While libraries in Maine aren’t able to open at full capacity yet, many, including South Portland Public Library and Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth, are beginning curbside pickup programs.

When the pandemic-related shutdowns began in mid-March, Director Kevin Davis said that the South Portland Public Library’s last full day saw members rushing in to take out materials before closing at 6:30 p.m.

Now that it’s June, card-holders have been calling and emailing library staff the past few months, bored with their checked-out books and films, asking when they can browse the library once again, he said.

Curbside pickup began on June 1 for South Portland Public Library, and there were over 100 requests on the first day for materials, said Davis. Pickup time slots were also filled up.

South Portland Public Library has directions on its website, but the way the curbside pickup program works is through utilizing the library’s online catalog, ordering materials, and scheduling a time — right now, Mondays through Fridays from noon to 5 p.m. — after receiving a message that materials are ready to pick up, Davis said.

Once someone’s order is ready, they will receive a thank-you email and a form to schedule a pickup time, he said. There are also instructions provided to patrons on how to safely collect books or films.

“They get a thank-you page afterwards with directions,” Davis said. “We ask for a simple description of the vehicle, and then staff come out and drop off the books, and afterward they can then get out of the car and pick up.”

While materials from the library’s Branch locations are also available,  curbside pickup is not currently available at those locations, said the South Portland Library’s website.

Ben McCanna photo/Press Herald

Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth also started a similar program on June 1, according to its website, for library card holders. The library’s catalog is available online for pickup orders, and members can call 799-1720 to place orders or ask questions as well, said Rachel Davis, library director.

“People have been missing their library books, and although we do offer e-books people can borrow, not everyone enjoys them and the print selection has much more to offer,” she said. “The (curbside) service is there and we’re happy for people to take advantage of it.”

For the Thomas Memorial Library, pickup times are currently from 1 p.m. to 4:430 on Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, Rachel Davis said. Appointments are made after materials are ready.

In addition, Thomas Memorial Library is offering book recommendations, Rachel Davis said, done through an online form found by clicking the the Google Doc link under the “How do I know what is available to borrow?” section of the page at thomasmemoriallibrary.org/curbside-pick-up.

Book bundles for children are also offered at the Thomas Memorial Library, she said. These include activity sheets.

Precautions against the spread of COVID-19 are also being taken into consideration, said the Thomas Memorial Library’s FAQ page about curbside pickup.

“According to CDC Guidelines and multiple studies about the viability of the Novel Coronavirus on surfaces, time is the best disinfectant,” the page said. “Therefore, all materials returned to us by other borrowers are being quarantined for a period of 72 hours before being checked in. Because of this, you will continue to see items you have borrowed show up on your account for three days after you have returned them.”

The South Portland Public Library has a similar quarantine process, said Kevin Davis in an email.

“Though the science is not yet definitive, there is increasing evidence that the virus does not survive on surfaces for too very long,” Kevin Davis said. “Out of an abundance of caution, in addition to strict facility cleaning protocols put in place by the city and the library staff’s training on proper use of healthy hand hygiene and use of masks, sanitizers, etc., all library materials are held for a three-day ‘quarantine’ when they are returned to the building. After three days, they are checked in as returned and are then available again for use.”

Kevin Davis said that the program is in its learning stages right now, but as time passes, the staff at the South Portland Public Library will begin to expand hours so they work for more members and also improve the system.

As far as reopening, he said that going back to normal will be dependent on the public health recommendations.

“It’s not like an office setting where people go to a particular spot and stay there all day,” Kevin Davis said. “So there’s no easy way to say, ‘This is what it’s going to be like in the future,’ because we have story times, people using the computers, people browsing through books, so public heath addresses will lead any decisions going forward. We expect the month of June will be just curbside pickup.”

Virtual programs are still offered while members wait, Kevin Davis said.

“Staff have really done a lot of stuff online and we plan to continue to do it,” he said. “We have youth staff doing story times for different ages. Adult groups have been meeting. The Spanish group has been meeting via Zoom. Staff has been resourceful. A lot of that has been in support of people missing meeting each other. Zoom has been very popular.”

If South Portland Public Library members are interested, they can visit southportlandlibrary.com, where information is listed on the homepage. Thomas Memorial Library members can visit www.thomasmemoriallibrary.org/curbside-pick-up.

Kevin Davis said that he’s been grateful for the kind messages from the public who have reached out to the South Portland Public Library or have taken advantage of the program.

“That’s been a really great thing — getting emails and Facebook responses,” he said. “People have been so appreciative. It pains us that we can’t do everything, but everything’s going to be motivated by safety and responsibility.”

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