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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Alachua County Library District expands curbside service for library card needs

<p><span>Signs outside of the Headquarters Branch of the Alachua County Library District direct patrons interested in curbside service.</span></p>

Signs outside of the Headquarters Branch of the Alachua County Library District direct patrons interested in curbside service.

Bookworms be aware: Alachua County Library District is offering curbside service for residents renewing or signing up for a library card.

The library district renewed almost 300 library cards and issued 49 new ones since introducing curbside services, said Rachel Cook, spokesperson for the library district. The 12 county library branches held soft launches before officially announcing they’d be expanding curbside services June 16.

The county’s library branches began offering curbside service May 13, which allowed patrons to continue checking out books despite libraries being closed to the public due to COVID-19, Cook said. Curbside hours are Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Patrons who are looking to renew or sign up for a library card must bring a government-issued photo ID and proof of residency in Alachua County, such as a piece of mail with their address on it, Cook said. Once they arrive, they should call the branch and will be assisted by a staff member. Branches have their phone numbers on signs posted outside.

The library district received a lot of calls from people who wanted library cards, which they couldn’t receive via curbside before, she said. Library cards that were meant to expire in 2020 are now extended and can be used until July 31.

“Obviously, one of our most important services we can provide is to give people cards that allow them access to our many amazing resources: our digital collections, our print collections, our e-sources,” Cook said. “So this was just a logical next step for us in continuing to offer more services to the public.”

More than 180,000 items were checked out during May when the Library District began offering curbside services, she said. Books about race in America are popular right now.

Carmen Spence has been a patron of the Alachua branch, located at 14913 NW 140 St., since she moved to the city in 2006.

Before the pandemic, the 40-year-old would reserve items online and pick them up, she said. Her transition to curbside service was smooth, but the reduced hours make it hard for her to go due to her work schedule.

She said she uses the library’s Libby app to listen to Harry Potter audiobooks during her commute, and she also recently enjoyed “Oil and Marble: A Novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo” by Stephanie Storey.

Curbside services are an opportunity to reconnect with library patrons, said Robert Rieders, a librarian supervisor at the Headquarters branch, located at 401 E. University Ave.

Elizabeth Oakes regularly makes trips to the Millhopper branch for herself and her 84-year-old mother.

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“She really missed being able to get new books, so she’s thrilled to be reading again,” she wrote in a message.

Before curbside services expanded, Oakes would frequent the library’s traveling Bookmobile at its Tuesday stop between Walgreens and Ace Hardware in Jonesville.

“This is better now, because I can pick up any day of the week and don’t even have to leave the car,” Oakes wrote, adding that she enjoys European historical fiction and political non-fiction.

Library staff is equipped with personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves, and emphasizes minimal contact by having patrons call ahead for materials, which are placed in the trunk of patrons’ cars, Rieders said.

 After patrons are done reading, books should be placed in library book drops, which are open 24/7, instead of giving them back using the curbside service. Everything returned is quarantined for 72 hours, Rieders said. 

“Our goal is to continue to phase in services for our patrons as safely as we can,” Cook said, adding that residents should visit the library district’s website to find out what’s being offered as services evolve.

Annie Lincoln used to visit the library once a week to grab books for her 7-year-old son. Curbside services have kept her son interested in reading about trucks and superheroes. He also occasionally enjoys winding down by searching for hidden objects in the I Spy book series.

“Once COVID hit, we had a harder time getting new books often enough because we didn’t really want to go out and spend money if we didn’t have to,” the 31-year-old wrote in a message. “I was excited to hear about the curbside pick-up starting for the libraries and put a hold on a few books as soon as I could.”

This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Elizabeth Oakes enjoys European historical fiction and political non-fiction, not her mother.

Signs outside of the Headquarters Branch of the Alachua County Library District direct patrons interested in curbside service.

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