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Sandy Journal

Virtual County Library available as reopening takes shape

Jun 15, 2020 10:27AM ● By Josh Wood

By Joshua Wood | [email protected]

Residents of Salt Lake County have gone without a lot of things over the past couple months. Some resources and services previously taken for granted have suddenly been dearly missed. One of those resources is the Salt Lake County Library system. Since mid-March, all 18 full-service physical branches have been closed. However, many of the library system’s services have been available online, and its staff members have worked to expand virtual offerings while the community stays at home.

“Everything is online right now,” said Sara Neal, marketing and communications manager for Salt Lake County Library. “Limited staff is going into branches to do some prep work for opening the libraries.”

In the meantime, and for the past several weeks, librarians have worked to make themselves more available online to the community. They started a daily online story time for kids on the library’s Facebook page each morning at 10:30. The library’s focus on children home from school has driven an expansion of online book offerings for kids of all ages.

The County Library has developed programs like its Stay at Home Challenge encouraging people to do things like write a letter to a grandparent they can’t see in person. Kids were also challenged to read a short book in a half hour. “We wanted to help people fill some time and try to take their minds off things,” Neal said.

Online offerings have expanded to include access to more books, magazines and movies. People can even get their library card by applying online.

“Librarians are not at a desk right now, but they are still getting resources available to the community,” Neal said. The virtual Ask a Librarian service offers the kind of help that librarians typically offer when physical branches are open. People can ask their librarians online for help with research, writing a resume, or how to apply for unemployment.

That type of online assistance will not go away when physical branches start to reopen. “We are working on how to serve members of the community who might be high risk,” Neal said.

The County Library has worked with government officials to plan how to reopen safely. “We are working closely with the county and state,” said Cottonwood Heights Communications Manager Timothy Beery. “We have to take into account our needs and the needs of our neighbors.”

As communities work toward reopening, the County Library has worked on how to keep patrons safe when libraries reopen. Everything from a safe curbside pickup program to properly cleaning materials as they come in has to be considered.

“How do you monitor a 6-foot distance in a library?” Neal asked. “We are looking at what other urban libraries are doing to find what’s safest for the community.”