Calgary library prepares for reopening, launches curbside pickup program

Interior of Calgary's Central Branch of the Calgary Public Library.
Interior of Calgary's Central Branch of the Calgary Public Library. Getty Images

On Thursday the Calgary Public Library made strides towards reopening in alignment with the provincial relaunch strategy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, libraries are included in Phase 2 of Alberta’s reopening plan which has an expected start date of June 19, but that doesn’t mean residents can’t access reading material in the meantime. The organization has launched a new curbside pickup program that will be available at almost all of Calgary’s 21 library locations starting June 9.

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“We’re going to be reopening our libraries in a staged and careful way to make sure that we can provide access to the library at a time when library service is more important than ever,” the library’s CEO, Mark Asberg, said in an interview with 770 CHQR.

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“We’ve already been ramping up our curbside service, so by next week it should be available in every location.”

The program is the beginning of the library’s reopening plan, it will allow residents who have outstanding holds to come and pick up their orders.

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Asberg said residents who have any books on hold will be contacted of when and where they can pick them up, he added that the curbside program is a contactless service to help keep residents safe amid the ongoing pandemic.

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The next step for the library will be reopening some branches.

“After we move into Phase 2, we will be able to start opening up our locations and we’re going to start with a couple of locations,” Asberg said.

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He added that once the province moves into the second stage of its relaunch strategy, select library locations will be reopening, but will operate much differently than before the pandemic.

“It’s a really intense opportunity for learning about how we adjust our services to a new time, and every location is a little bit different,” he said. “We have small locations, we have big locations and we have a central library which is completely unique to all of North America.

“All of those locations are going to have the same concerns in terms of social distancing and sanitizing but it might look a bit different in certain locations.”

Calgary’s new Library at Home program
Calgary’s new Library at Home program

However, until the province gives the green light to proceed to Phase 2, many restrictions on the library remain in place, including the facility’s inability to accept book returns.

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But Asberg said many services are still available, including online programs.

“COVID-19 has really hit our community hard and right now our libraries are more important than ever, especially when it comes to digital access and access to information,” he said.

Library locations in Calgary have been closed since mid-March after the city declared a local state of emergency due to the ongoing pandemic.