What’s it like being a library book during a pandemic? Our circulation supervisor, Joleen Sterk tells the story in “Trial of a Quarantined Item.”
Living in quarantine is not my destiny in life….I am supposed to be entertaining or informing people in my community. Due to COVID-19, public health policy-makers and library decision-makers have instituted a 96-hour quarantine of ALL materials coming into the library. So here I sit, with other books, DVDs, magazines, and other items…waiting for the days to pass, so that I can once again be checked out.
Library staff are doing their best to make me comfortable, and keep me away from non-quarantine items. But things are really beginning to pile up. Since the library is closed on Saturdays and Sundays, our bin of returned items gets very full. On Monday morning, it’s not unusual to find a mountain of returns, spilling onto the floor. Eventually, it all gets cleaned up, and the materials sit. We sit, and sit, and sit. Finally, today is my checkin day! Staff will scan my barcode, using a process called “backdating”, so that my checkin date reflects the date that I was actually returned. I may be headed back out to the stacks…or to the holds shelf here in Menomonie, or sent to another library, somewhere in the MORE system.
Many people have come to depend on our MORE delivery trucks, making their daily routes to area libraries. Many are wondering why a process that used to take days may now take several weeks. I hear the frustration in phone calls and over-the-counter comments. I can see that when the grey plastic bins arrive at the library’s back door, they are also held, for a 96-hour quarantine period, from the time that the bin was sealed.
The staff who work here would like nothing more than to get materials into our community’s hands. But they know that public safety is more important right now. I am simply a book, who has dreams of visiting new homes in the community, going on vacations for beach reading, enjoying lazy weekend family reading time, and perhaps someday, traveling again. In the meanwhile, just know that your Menomonie Public Library staff is doing everything they can, within current limitations. Be safe, stay hopeful, and save a spot for me in your library book bag.