Library services look different in Hermiston as Umatilla County begins reopening

Hermiston Public Library offers bins for returned books

The Hermiston Public Library is getting creative with services to keep staff and readers safe as Umatilla County launches Phase 1 of Oregon’s reopening plan.

The library stopped accepting book returns, put a hold on any fines and locked their doors when Gov. Brown announced her stay-at-home order. To continue serving the community, library staff members went on Facebook to read books to the community. Now they are taking steps to implement safe and practical ways to help readers in Hermiston.

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Bins are placed on the north side of the library to start taking in books that were checked out in March. The bins, labeled ‘DVD’s & CD’s’ and ‘Books & Magazines’, are lined with trash bags to make transport of the books easy and safe for staff members.

“People will be able to place their materials inside those canisters and then we’ll be able to remove them without contaminating ourselves if there should be any contamination,” Mark Rose the Director of Hermiston Public Library said.

The materials collected inside the bins will then sit in quarantine for at least 72 hours. Rose expects the 3 day period will allow any possible virus or contamination on the materials to expire. This plan will ensure staff can safely return the items into the library’s system and into the hands of another borrower. “That’s the caution that we’re taking here to make sure the staff are safe and that the next member of the public who receives them are also safe,” Rose said.Bins lined with trash bags

Currently the stainless steel drop off box is closed and library staff encourage borrowers to use the blue and green bins. People can drop off materials in the bins from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Rose says library staff members will not look in the bag once it’s removed from the bin for at least 72 hours. If a borrower normally checks return status updates online, they will most likely not see that notification until the staff has recirculated the materials after the quarantine period. The same 72 hour holding phase will be applied to books sent to the Hermiston Public Library from other locations.

“Everything we’re going to hand to folks we will do in a way that we can feel good about,” Rose said, “Our staff handling them and handing them to somebody else when they come into borrow them.”

Rose says it could take a month to receive a book from another library in the Sage system because some aren’t open yet and they are taking precautions. A book may appear to be sent and arrived to the Hermiston Public Library, but staff will hold those items until they are safe to distribute. Rose says the library plans to open services like curbside pick-up services by the end of the week. When the library is capable of allowing the community into the building, the scenery will look different.

“We probably won’t have any chairs except for the computers, because we’re not going to encourage people to sit and stay, but to come and get materials and go,” Rose said. He says that is not normally the environment they would want for readers but it is a starting point until the community and government can insure everyone can go back to pre-pandemic activity.

We just encourage them to come and get the reading resources that we have, and then they’ll go home and read them,” he said.

While services continue to look different, Rose says the library plans to conduct a summer reading program for kids. Normally, the program would be held at the library with large groups but Rose says that won’t be possible this year. The staff is looking for alternatives, like smaller groups, but details will be released in what Rose says is “a timely manner.”

“We’re looking forward to seeing the kids and encouraging them to read,” Rose said, “We know they’ve probably been doing a lot of reading but we want them to keep reading because school starts again and hopefully when they get back to school they’ll be able to see their friends and play and not worry so much about all these things we’re worried about right now.”