Monday, June 1, 2020
Libraries Reinvent Selves During the Pandemic
The Community Library’s Curbside Concierge got as many as 100 requests a day in the four days it was up and running.
Sunday, May 3, 2020


The Community Library was eerily quiet when Carter Hedberg stepped into it the day after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake rattled the Sun Valley area.

The library staff, which would have been bustling around shelving books and planning the next lecture, was absent. And so were the 400 to 500 patrons who flock to the library each day, holing up in cubicles to read the latest magazines and huddling in small groups in a myriad of newly built conference rooms.

The only reason Hedberg was there was to check to see if there was any damage from the earthquake. It turned out only one DVD had fallen off the shelves. The building, which had undergone a two-year remodel to shore it up against earthquakes, had come through unscathed.

But it had not gone unscathed from the coronavirus, which had emptied out a bustling building that its executive director Jenny Emery Davidson likes to refer to as the community’s living room.

“We worked so hard to keep everything open and running smoothly during construction. And we’d seen increased usage as people embraced the new library. It was so sad for me to see it empty and unused because library is so well used and well loved,” said Hedberg, the library’s philanthropy director.

That said, Hedberg and Davidson are grateful that the renovation was completed just before the coronavirus hit because the library now has better technology in place, such as self-checkout and return stations, that will enable distancing when the library is able to reopen to the public.

Even the Community Library’s new outdoor spaces, which include a second-floor patio overlooking Ketchum and a large plaza outside the children’s library, will offer distancing possibilities as people can read periodicals or access the library’s WiFi outside.

“We’re planning two different tracks of programming—virtual and onsite,” said Davidson. “There may be a time when we can hold a presentation outside where we can spread people out.”

Both the Community Library and Hailey Public Library are beginning to reopen--not by flinging open the doors but in slow measured steps.

Both are now accepting returns, and curbside concierge will begin for both on Monday.

“We’re putting our toe in the water,” said Lauren Primrose, who has been serving as interim director since Director LeAnn Gelskey left to work at the State Library in Boise.

“We’re pacing ourselves because we want to respect the safety of our staff,” said Hedberg. “We all know someone who has gotten sick and we don’t want others to get sick.”

The Community Library’s 45 library and Gold Mine employees kept amazingly busy working from home after the library closed on March 16 after Gov. Brad Little ordered Blaine County residents to shelter in place.

Some staff worked to help people access digital resources, while others continued to order and catalog books. Some took professional development training, while others made plans for all kinds of contingencies in wake of the coronavirus.

Streaming of movies through the on-demand streaming video platform Kanopy increased 300 percent during the pandemic and digital downloads increased 200 percent. The WiFi service that circles the Community Library has also been well used by people sitting on the front porch or in their cars in outside.

The Community Library’s maintenance crew disinfected the library and Gold Mine thoroughly and have returned to disinfect areas that have been used by staff, such as Davidson, on occasions when she returned to handle bills and payroll.

And the Hailey Public Library had a certified cleaning service disinfect the entire library, removing books from shelves, sanitizing the shelves and putting the books back. Enhanced disinfecting processes will be ongoing to make both libraries as safe and healthy for staff and, eventually patrons, as possible.

  • The Community Library began taking book returns on April 24 and will continue to accept drop-offs every Friday for the time being. The books are allowed to quarantined for 72 hours before they can be touched and shelved.
  • The Community Library will start curbside concierge on Monday, May 4. which will allow people to request books and DVDs and pick them up.

Books can be reserved online at, by calling 208-726-3493 or by emailing

“Having the curbside concierge up and running will be huge for us, as people have been anxious,” said Hedberg. “We were getting a hundred requests in a single day in the four days we offered curbside concierge before the governor closed everything down.”

Davidson said she expects curbside pickup will continue through May even as the library begins opening to the public in order to serve those who may not feel comfortable physically entering the building.

“We miss getting together with our community whether in the form of conversations at the circulation desk or in the lecture hall. But we have excitement about what we can continue to do from enabling our patrons to check out through our curbside concierge to helping them view tutorials online,” she said. “The library is a place of reinvention. This pandemic has amplified the need to reinvent and we’ve been invigorated and stimulated by that.”

May 16 is when Idaho Gov. Brad Little has said groups smaller than 10 may gather, provided new reports of coronavirus stay low. That will allow the library and Gold Mine to open to gatherings of 10 or fewer people.

“Once we are open, we will spread out computers to facilitate distancing,” said Davidson. “We will have hand sanitizing and disinfecting wipes for people to use. We’re even purchasing new computer keyboards that are waterproof and conducive to being sanitized.”

  • The Children’s Library will launch its Summer Reading program “Imagine Your Story” for K-6th and for 7th-12th early this year on May 10.

    It will be held online. And, yes, a prize drawing is included with such prizes as a bike and a $100 toy store gift card. Youth may register online or by phone.

  • The Summer Bloom Truck, which takes books and lunches to children from Carey through Ketchum, is still under discussion. Atkinson’s Park in Ketchum will join locations in Carey, Bellevue, Balmoral and The Meadows south of Ketchum. The truck may offer grab-and-go lunches.
  • The library is also offering youngsters in grades 6 through 12 the opportunity to write a book review and send it to Those that are published will earn $25 for the author.

    Hailey Library staff have been holding regular meetings via Zoom from home and answering phones from home as limited staff move and out of the library.

    The Hailey Public Library has been operating remotely offering online virtual reference and help through TIDIO chat service. It expanded online materials checkout services through a free Instant Digital Library Card program and increased digital materials purchasing to meet demand. It also has hosted virtual adult and children’s programming through ZOOM and other platforms.

    “It’s lonely. We miss our patrons so much,” said Primrose.

    The library had 2,700 items checked out at the time closed.

    “That’s why we need to start taking back books now,” said Primrose. “How are we going to check all those in if they all come in at once?!”

  • The library will offer curbside service from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Fridays beginning Monday, May 4 via a table in the foyer. The public will not be able to use computers or browse the shelves.

     People can request materials through the website or by phone. Librarians will place the books in sterilized plastic bags and check them out. Patrons must have a library card or photo ID.

  • Patrons may return items through the library’s book return drop box. The books will be quarantined for 72 hours—the time the maximum time it is believed the virus hangs on items like stainless steel. Books will not be wiped down as that can be damaging to the books, said Primrose.

    No more than three staff will be working in the library for the time being. Staff will work wearing gloves and masks. The 2 p.m. closure will allow them to spend the rest of the disinfecting the building and materials.

  • As Idaho moves into Stage 3 the library will begin to accept materials requests in person at the foyer work station and retrieve materials upon request.
  • In Stage 4 it will move circulation out of the foyer and back to the regular circulation desk. But it will barricade the remainder of the library to limit public access to the circulation desk, entry way and Sun Room.

Some computer usage via advance sign up will be allowed in Sun Room at that time.

There will be no children’s story time for now, and patrons will not be able to use the computers or touch the collections themselves. But the library is offering virtual story time through Facebook, as well as a virtual book club and adult programming.

“Our number one concern is safety and for staff and community,” said Primrose. “If things turn around, we may have to stop even limited service. Nobody knows how it’s going to go.”

Regardless of how the state’s reopening goes, the library’s search for a new director is ongoing. The Board of Directors hopes to make an offer towards the end of June, said Primrose.


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