“We’re very excited to be able to welcome people back inside the library again,” says Lee Franklin, community relations manager for the Phoenix Public Library, which includes Burton Barr and 16 library branches.
People can reserve a day and time up to three days in advance by going online or contacting the library call center. In addition, participating branches have a limited number of drop-in slots for people who haven’t made a reservation.
“The number of spaces varies by location,” Franklin says of the plan, which calls for limiting occupancy to 25 percent. “Hundreds of people will be able to access the library system in person each day through these reservations.”
Phoenix City Council approved the plan on April 7, authorizing the following branches to begin in-person visits on Monday, April 19: Agave, Burton Barr, Cesar Chavez, Cholla, Desert Broom, Ironwood, Mesquite, and Palo Verde.
“What really drove the decision was wanting to open our largest libraries first,” explains Lee. “We also looked at geographic coverage so we’d have libraries open throughout the city, plus the circulation numbers and demand for access to public computers at various sites.”
South Mountain Community Library isn’t part of this initial rollout, because it’s located on the campus for South Mountain Community College. Lee notes that the campus hasn’t authorized resuming in-person library visits at this point.
Two more rollouts are planned in coming weeks. The Desert Sage, Harmon, Juniper, and Saguaro libraries have in-person hours starting on Monday, May 3. The Acacia, Century, Ocotillo, and Yucca libraries will start in-person hours on Monday, May 17.
During in-building appointments, you’ll be able to browse the collection, check out materials, pick up items on hold, use a computer or the internet, and use equipment such as printers, scanners, and copiers. In addition, patrons can check out a laptop or Wi-Fi hotspot, and the library is continuing to offer free parking lot Wi-Fi from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The library has two priorities for in-building visits, according to Lee. “The first is the safety of our patrons, staff, and community members,” she says. “The second is giving people the greatest possible access.” Safety measures include requiring masks and social distancing.
Current plans call for continuing curbside service from 9:30 a.m. to noon Mondays through Saturdays, with in-person visits starting at 12:30 p.m. But the specifics may change over time or vary by location, so Lee advises checking with your favorite branch to be sure you have the latest details.
At this point, the library doesn’t know when in-person events such as story times, lectures, or exhibits will return. “We don’t have a target date yet; it’s a living thing that we’re evaluating each day.” Lee notes that city leadership and the library are continuing to monitor public health metrics, which will impact those decisions moving forward.
“We’re going to continue with robust virtual offerings,” she says, noting that it’s one of the few good things to come out of the pandemic pivot. “In the before times, people might miss a story time because getting to the library didn’t work with their schedule; now they can experience the story time at home.”
Even so, Lee recognizes that patrons are eager to resume impromptu library visits. “There’s really nothing that replaces being able to walk into the library and browse the stacks or talk with your local librarian.”