Area libraries begin curbside service


Johnson City Public Library staff prepare to deliver books curbside to patrons.

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Wilbert Melendez was more than ready to get back to the Johnson City Public Library (JCPL), even if it just meant waiting in the parking lot for a delivery.

“He was so sad when the library closed,” Holly Melendez, Wilbert’s mom, said Monday as she waited in the large family van for items for Wilbert and his seven siblings.

The Melendezes were among the first JCPL patrons to pull up to one of 10 designated parking slots, call the library and wait just a few minutes for staff to bring their bagged, pre-ordered items out for a contact-free delivery.

Wilbert Melendez, right, with his mom Holly and brother John Gregory outside the Johnson City Public Library.

It didn’t quite match the fun of spending time going through the stacks looking for a new favorite series, Wilbert said, but he was still happy to have the latest Captain Underpants release in his hands.

Library Director Julia Turpin was happy, too. She and leaders from other area libraries had been sharing thoughts on a phased reopening plans for several weeks.

“We have been receiving so many phone calls, emails, Facebook messages from folks who are just desperate for materials,” Turpin said. “They stocked up months ago and they’re just ready for more.”

How it works

To pick up items curbside, patrons must start by placing a hold on the items they want. That can be done on the libraries’ websites or through a phone call. Once a hold is done, people can schedule appointments, again either online or by phone.

JCPL Director Julia Turpin delivers an order Monday.

In Johnson City, patrons arrive for appointments, pull into one of 10 designated parking spots, and call a number. Gloved staff pull the order, with another staff member bagging it and taking it to the vehicle where it’s put in an open trunk or some other area of the vehicle.

The library is also not allowing returned items to be given back directly to the staff delivering new items. Instead, they should go into the book drop to avoid cross contamination. It’s all part of a cautious approach, Turpin said.

“We decided to follow a ‘data over dates’ model over this,” Turpin said. With new cases relatively stable, area libraries were ready to go to Phase One.

Curbside pickup information by library:

By Friday morning JCPL employees had prepared about 900 books in a very organized fashion inside the library’s Jones Meeting Room.

Jessica Odom of Johnson City was certainly ready for more. The avid reader who said she “doesn’t like to buy books” checked out about 12 books in early March.

“I had a feeling the library would be shut down while I was on spring break,” Odom said. “So I just finished all my books and returned them last week. So I was like, ‘perfect timing.’

“I follow their Instagram and was waiting for the day when they would open back up, and they did.”

Turpin said the children’s services are particularly important.

“Summer reading is also starting, so particularly for the kiddos, we want to get those books in their hands to help with summer slide this year.”

While he was happy to leave with the latest Captain Underpants book, Wilbert Melendez said things wouldn’t be back to true normal until he could browse in one of his favorite places.

“I like that they have themes all the time,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like you’re in a library and they forcing you to get a book and get out, you can stay as long as you want.”

Wilbert said he and his siblings tend to polish off books “really fast,” and that they usually visit the library weekly.

Turpin said she hopes that opportunity will come soon. They’ll need a 14-day decline in new cases, and newspaper and magazine browsing is among normal features that won’t be immediately available.

“You will have the opportunity to browse the collection and make those selections for yourself,” she said. “It’s just a different experience when you wander the stacks and you find that hidden gem, so we’re just really looking forward to having a safe way to offer that to patrons again.”

At least at first, browsing with as little touching as possible will be ideal, but not required.

“If you decide you don’t want that hidden gem, you put it back on a cart so it can be quarantined.”

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