Libraries in Snohomish County — those run by Sno-Isle Libraries and Everett Public Library — remain closed as the county and the rest of the state slowly advance through the Safe Start phases meant to limit the spread of Covid-19.
But, as with the public schools in our neighborhoods, don’t let the closed doors lead you to think that the connections between libraries and patrons have shut down along with the buildings.
In truth, both public library systems are still humming to keep those connections open, links that are vital particularly during the pandemic. And more so now that school is back in session, even as classes have returned to the remote learning with which most students finished out the school year in June.
“It’s hard to do with social-distancing,” said Lois Langer Thompson, executive director for Sno-Isle Libraries, last week in a teleconference interview. “But our goal is to make sure everyone is connected,” regardless of how those connections are made.
Everett Public Library, in addition to its online presence, has branches in downtown Everett at 2702 Hoyt and its Evergreen Branch at 9512 Evergreen Way.
Sno-Isle Libraries has 23 branches located throughout Snohomish and Island counties.
While the libraries remain closed, both Everett and Sno-Isle have added contact-free curbside pickup of books and other materials, along with the online checkout of ebooks, e-audiobooks and other electronic material that has been available during pandemic closures.
And as the new school year begins — remotely for most districts in the county — both library systems are reaching out to support students, parents and educators with what can be an unfamiliar learning environment. When even adults struggle with toggling a mute button on and off, you know online learning can be a challenge for kids.
Both library systems are encouraging students and parents to take advantage of an abundance of online resources. Everett Public Library, for example, offers an A-to-Z list of resources and websites, useful for all grade levels. And a back to school page on the library’s Reading Life blog, offers tips specific to the first week of school, such as setting routines, habits and expectations for learning at home.
Sno-Isle also is offering similar resources through its website, for kids and teens, including information resources for reports and live tutoring services.
And, when that report on aardvarks is done, if you don’t have a printer — or more likely an ink cartridge has run dry — both libraries also offer printing services, which now are available through email for Everett patrons or through a online printing portal for Sno-Isle customers. Both offer daily or weekly credits for pages to cardholders; and the printed pages can be picked up curbside at library locations.
For some families, however, even making that online connection can be difficult, depending on a family’s internet availability. To help make that connection, Sno-Isle recently has boosted the WiFi signals available at its library branch parking lots, but it has also made portable WiFi hotspots available to school districts and families, Langer Thompson said. Everett also has boosted its WiFi signals at its branches; users are advised to park near the main library entrance on Hoyt (reserving the spaces closest to the front doors for curbside pickup); and the parking lot at the Evergreen Branch.
Both systems also offer numerous online events for kids and adults, including story times, book club and writers club discussions, business workshops and arts and crafting gatherings. Sno-Isle’s online trivia gatherings have been popular this summer. And teens have exercised their problem-solving skills with virtual “escape rooms.”
It’s likely to be some time yet before those of us who enjoy somewhat-aimlessly wandering a library’s stacks of books, will be able to look for titles we didn’t know we wanted to read. So Sno-Isle is encouraging patrons to browse vicariously, courtesy of a library employee. Call in a request with general interests or genre, Langer Thompson said, and a librarian will pull titles that might interest you and can be picked up curbside.
All of us are eager for a return of favorite activities that we have been denied of late: concerts and music festivals, athletic events, classes, theater, movies and more. Each provides, along with those entertainments, a connection with our communities and neighbors. And for kids and parents returning to online learning for the foreseeable future, those connections with peers and with resources can help everyone cope, learn and grow.
Until those in-person options return, we can make full use of the connections — even when physically distanced — that our public libraries provide.