With branches closed due to COVID-19, London’s library pivots to no-touch, pick-up service

The Masonvile branch of the London Public Library. Google Maps

It may not be the full library experience, but it’s a start.

Beginning next week, London Public Library (LPL) patrons will be able to utilize a new pick-up service at select branches to sign-out books, CDs, movies, and other items, library officials announced Wednesday.

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Ontario libraries have been closed to the public since mid-March due to COVID-19. Last month, the province implemented stage one of its reopening plans, allowing libraries to reopen and provide pick-up or delivery service.

“We’ve been gearing up for that for a couple of weeks now, and we’re set to launch five branches next Monday, and we’re looking forward to it,” said London Public Library CEO Michael Ciccone.

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“We’ve been in the branches this week preparing and we really are looking forward to seeing our patrons again from a distance.”

Pick-up service will begin on Monday at Beacock, Byron, East London, Jalna, and Masonville branches, and will be expanded to Bostwick, Crouch, Landon, Pond Mills, and Stoney Creek on June 15.

Service from the downtown Central Library branch is tentatively set to begin on June 22, according to officials, while service will start at Cherryhill and Sherwood branches when those malls can reopen.

Three branches, Carson, Glanworth, and Lambeth, will not see pick-up service initially due to “distancing limitations,” but Ciccone says they’ll explore opening the branches as time goes on.

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The pick-up service will see patrons place holds online or by phone, and choose which branch they would like to get the items from.

“The patron will step up and they will scan their library card. The information for that patron will be provided on the screen for the staff. Staff will go and retrieve their materials, put it on a table, and the patron will go happily on their way,” Ciccone said, noting the entire process will be no-touch.

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“The material will already have been checked out by library staff, and the material itself would have been reserved through our whole system.”

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Patrons will be able to pick up their holds from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

With some 120,000 items still checked out from before the shutdown, Ciccone said those looking to make returns, however, are being asked to wait until they hear from the library.

“We know that they’re eager to return some of the material,” Ciccone said.

“We’ve not been charging fines for the duration of the closure, and that will continue. But we are contacting people to try to keep a steady flow of materials coming in rather than one big bunch.”

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The library says no items are due until June 30, no late fines will be charged, and library cards that expire in 2020 will be extended.

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Libraries across the province have been closed to the public since March 17 when the Ford government declared an emergency over the novel coronavirus, shutting down all non-essential businesses and establishments.

The library has continued to provide services online, including digital programming and collections, but library users have been unable to return or sign-out any items.

With the absence of the brick-and-mortar branches, Ciccone says more and more people have been utilizing the library’s digital offerings, which include access to online services such as PressReader, Hoopla, Flipster, Lynda, and The New York Times.

“The bottom line is we want to provide service, and whether that’s digital, whether that’s virtual, whether that’s in person, we’re going to we’re going to do it because there’s a demand out there for it. And people seem to love it.”

More information on the pick-up service can be found on the London Public Library website.

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