TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Topeka and Shawnee County Library isn’t opening its front doors for business just yet. Instead, you can open your car door to get your books.
On any given day, 2,000 to 3,000 people walk through the doors of the library. Since March 17 the building has been empty.
For Rhonda Boyd and her husband who are avid readers, the library is one of the places they miss the most during quarantine. But the curbside pickup is exactly the right dose of what her husband needs to get through a recovery from a recent surgery.
“We had a big stack of books and we read everything over the quarantine period,” Rhonda Boyd said.
All Rhonda had to do to get some new material was choose what she wanted online, drive to the library parking lot and it was brought straight to the trunk of her car to avoid unnecessary interactions that can spread the virus.
When the library closed, holds were canceled but the ones that were already held were not lost. The library staff moved those holds to Claire’s Courtyard, a spot where people typically ate their food from Millenium Cafe or played cards with one another. Now it holds 3,000 books waiting to be picked up.
Humans aren’t the only ones who need to quarantine. The books that come back are kept in a designated room for 72 hours as an extra safety precaution. Library officials said research is being done that will help give them a better idea just how long the coronavirus lasts on books. Spraying down the materials with sanitizer would interfere with the intricate checkout system the library uses.
The library knows it’s not just about the books. Some people rely on their services to get other things done like pay bills online, get tax forms or read the news.
“Broadband is not universally available, even in the city of Topeka, let alone the outreach areas of Shawnee county, the more rural areas, so it’s important to us that we be available for people to come in because in 2020 a lot of job searching, a lot of job applications take place online,” Paul Brennan, collections director at the library, said.
The library said that it hopes to open its doors with social distancing guidelines by June 15th, pending Shawnee County Health Department guidelines. You will be able to use the computer for an hour and a half at a time. You won’t be able to touch the materials still, but you can use curbside pickup or have a librarian retrieve your things.
If you miss sifting through the shelves, the experts at the library have also started a personalized browsing service to find you the perfect book. It’s similar to personal shopping.