National Book Lovers Day :: A Guide to Using Your Library During Quarantine


Did you know today is National Book Lovers Day?! If there is any “national day” we can get behind, it’s one revolving around books and reading. I have always been an avid reader and have worked diligently to make sure my daughters also love getting lost in a good book. To celebrate our new favorite holiday, we took advantage of our favorite local library and visited their extensive children’s collection on Friday morning.

Visiting the Library During a Pandemic

It was our first in person visit since the beginning of quarantine and so many things have changed. Our favorite branch is only just now returning to regular business hours, so we took advantage of a quiet morning and decided to load up on reading materials and report back on the current safety requirements and changes to our library’s programming.

Guidelines and Recommendations

Alabama is currently under a statewide mask mandate, and the library is no exception. All patrons over the age of six are required to wear a mask, and there were signs posted both inside and out to remind you. Every staff person I saw was wearing a mask, and plexiglass dividers had been installed around the circulation desks.

Visiting the Library During a Pandemic

As we were getting ready to leave the house, Polly got so excited about our masks and insisted on packing one for herself. She hasn’t actually worn a mask yet (or been in public, for that matter), but I bought her one just in case we found ourselves in a position to need it. I fully expected her to scream and fight, but she happily wore her mask for more than thirty minutes while we were inside. She did abandon it right before we left — see photo evidence below! — but I was impressed at how well she did. I hesitate to call this our new normal, but I’m happy to know she doesn’t see it as intimidating or scary and was more than willing to comply.

Visiting the Library During a Pandemic - National Book Lovers Day

Masks weren’t the only thing different about our local library, and while I’m sure every system varies, I thought the recommendations for patrons and limits on programming were well thought out and easy to follow.

  • Masks are required at all times for patrons over the age of six.
  • Our library is operating at regular business hours but recommends that you check their website or call before your visit, just in case! 
  • There are signs posted at every entrance, with questions regarding your exposure level, symptoms, and recent medical history. They encourage you not to visit if you’ve recently been around others who are sick or not feeling well.
  • Only 40 patrons are allowed on-site at any given time.
  • No gathering or congregating with other groups.
  • The meetings rooms are closed until further notice and only four computers are open for research. All digital equipment is regularly sanitized and set up to allow for social distancing.
  • Hand-sanitizing stations are set up on both floors of the library.
  • The summer reading program has shifted to a virtual model, and much of their regular programming has been postponed or replaced with digital options.

While many libraries remain closed at this time, most continue to offer services to patrons in some capacity. Check your library’s website to find out about current services and protocols.

Curbside Service

I don’t know about your library, but ours has been offering curbside service since the very beginning of quarantine. Before the library was open to the public, you could place reading materials on hold (via the website or by calling to speak with a library assistant), park in a designated parking spot, and call when you arrived for curbside delivery. Inter-library loans may be prohibited during the pandemic, but you can always request and pick up books that are currently available on the shelf.

Visiting the Library During a Pandemic

Even though our library is currently open to the public, they are continuing to offer curbside pickup for vulnerable members of our community or those who prefer not to come inside. Can we talk about what a game changer this is when you have a sleeping baby in the car?!

You can find a list of Jefferson County libraries offering curbside service here.

Are you one of those people who needs to see a book to know that you want to read it? I’m constantly saving books on my Instagram feed and making regular library holds, but I know that most people prefer to browse. Our local librarians have offered to browse the library for you and help make selections based on the books and genres you prefer!

Going Digital

National Book Lovers Day - First visit to the library during the pandemic

One of the easiest ways to leverage your library’s collection during the pandemic is to familiarize yourself with their digital collection. Most libraries offer access to reading materials through various platforms, and none of that requires you leave the comfort of your own home! My library uses Overdrive (and the Libby app), which allows you to access both ebooks and audiobooks for free, courtesy of your local library. Another option offered by many library systems is Hoopla, which allows you access to both movies and music, in addition to library books and reference materials. The best things about using your library’s digital offerings are that you have instant access to most titles and the wait times for new releases aren’t nearly as long.

Visiting the Library During a Pandemic

Other digital options offered by many libraries are virtual story times — both live and archived — on-line programming, and the option to sign up for a library card right on their website! Nothing replaces the smell or experience of visiting the library in person, but I’m so thankful for the opportunity to access these options when we aren’t leaving our house as often as we once were.

Visiting the Library During a Pandemic - great selections for National Book Lovers Day

There aren’t many places I would consider taking small children, but we arrived right as our library opened and it felt completely safe and accessible for us all. I hope the day comes soon when we can leave our house without masks and copious amounts of hand-sanitizer, but until it does we’re learning to live in a world where we have to make adjustments and learn to roll with the punches.

I highly recommend calling your local library branch to ask questions about their current operations or checking their website for regular updates on business hours and changes in programming. Now tell me what’s on your to be read list — I need recommendations for our next early morning visit.

Happy National Book Lovers Day!

You can find my “Support Your Local Library” t-shirt here.