Sno-Isle Libraries has expanded services inside its community libraries in Marysville, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood and Mukilteo.
More community libraries are preparing to follow suit in the coming weeks.
On April 22, the Marysville Library transitioned from a public computing lab in its meeting room to full in-library browsing, public computing, reference help and more.
Pam Cole was the first customer to come inside to pick up two books on hold. She said she hadn’t been in the library since February 2020.
“I’m happy, ” she said. “Your opening feels like normalcy again.”
Library Manager Eric Spencer and Assistant Manager Jill Wubbenhorst were thrilled to have customers call and thank employees for the online programs offered during the year of pandemic. But “it’s not the same,” Spencer said.
“We’re ready to greet our customers again,” he said.
In the two weeks since the Marysville Library expanded in-building service, Spencer said foot traffic has increased and is getting steadier with each day. Many of those customers are visiting for the first time since moving to the area in the past year.
“Most people who had been using contact-free services are happy to hear that they can come in to pick up their print jobs and check out their own holds,” he said. “People are observing the face-covering requirement and keeping their visits brief and efficient, which is helping keep the occupancy down so more can be served.”
Customers will notice differences when they walk inside. Open space and wider aisles are an invitation to explore deeper into the collection, Wubbenhorst said. It may feel like the collection of materials must have shrunk to offer up so much space, but staff say that stock has only grown.
“Even with more open space, now it’s neat, tight and browsable,” Wubbenhorst said.
Public computers are spread throughout the library. Three single-seat PC stations are tucked into the nonfiction collection where it’s quieter. That’s a change that users requested, Wubbenhorst said. In the middle of the library, three PCs are on tables that will permit family members to work side-by-side, a need that arose as public computers were available only at single-seat desks.
The Mountlake Terrace Library began offering in-building services on April 27 following substantial construction of the Mountlake Terrace’s new city hall across the parking lot. Like Marysville, folks can browse the shelves, pick up and check out their holds, or use a public computer.
Library Manager Kristin Piepho said the opening attracted a combination of regulars from “the before times,” some customers who have only interacted with the library through contact-free pick-up, and a few children who were very excited to choose books from the shelves instead of browsing the catalog.
“A librarian from Seattle Public Library mentioned that she hadn’t realized how much she missed the browsing experience,” Piepho said.
One woman walked into the lobby and asked when the library would be open again.
“When she found out she could come inside, she went back outside and did a happy dance,” Piepho said.
The Lynnwood and Mukilteo libraries expanded their in-building services on May 3 after offering limited “grab-n-go” browsing in their meeting rooms.
Fantu Barksra and Fran Curley were among those who came into the Lynnwood facility.
“We’re glad to be back,” Barksra said as he picked up holds for his book-loving daughter.
Curley just wanted to browse the shelves and familiarize herself with where things are now.
“It feels so good to be back in the library,” Curley said.
Library Manager Michael Delury said the first days were fairly smooth.
At the Mukilteo Library, Nichole Leibov was heading for the exit with two bags full of 31 children’s books for her daughter, Noemie, 5. Liebov said the family recently moved to Mukilteo and this was their first time inside. Noemie also left with a handful of at-home children’s craft projects.
In order to maintain the health and safety of customers and staff, Sno-Isle Libraries limits customers to 30 minutes of browsing per visit and cleans each public computer and peripherals after customer use. All customers ages 2 and over must wear a cloth face mask that covers the nose and mouth while inside the library and customers are asked to observe social-distancing rules. Each community library that offers in-building service sets its own building occupancy limit.
Go to sno-isle.org/in-building-services to see what services are offered at each community library.
For those who don’t want to go inside, all Sno-Isle Libraries will continue to offer contact-free services and plan to do so even after the pandemic restrictions are lifted.