Library patrons pick up items at Rincon Valley branch (Photo: Dante Benedetti, The Puma Prensa)
By Dante Benedetti, opinion editor
On April 26, Sonoma County Libraries will be open at limited capacity and hours. Since March 14, 2020, SCLs have been closed with only curbside pick-up and drop-off available for physical items. When asked about the reopening, SCL Director Ann Hammond said, “We’ve been working on it for a long time…[in the meantime we’ve been] focusing a lot on our online resources.” Up until March 14, 2021, Sonoma County was in the purple tier, which prevented the libraries from resuming in-person browsing and checkout.
“We’ve been trying to be very safe when it comes to our staff and the community,” said Hammond. Even though Sonoma County has been out of the purple tier, SCL administration still had to negotiate with the union that represents many of its employees, the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, in order to open up again.
Libraries often serve as gathering places, especially for students after school. Pre-COVID, students from Maria Carrillo regularly gathered in the nearby Rincon Valley Regional Library until parents picked them up or until sports practice began.
“At the library you can do homework or just hang out. It allows students to be more comfortable while waiting to be picked up,” said MCHS junior John Kim.
The opening of SCLs happens to be on the same day that MCHS will start hybrid learning. However, this does not mean students will be able to hang out in the library after school as usual. Since the library will have limited capacity, students will have to wait their turn until the library has vacancy. In addition, the SCLs’ limited hours do not necessarily coincide with the start and end times of MCHS. SCLs will be open as follows: Monday and Tuesday: 1-2 p.m. and 5-6 p.m.; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday: 11a.m.-12p.m. and 3-4p.m.; Sundays: 3-4p.m.only at the Central Santa Rosa library.
The limited capacity in which SCLs will operate for the time being also means that in person activities that the libraries previously offered–clubs, readings, story time, puppet shows, etc.–will not be available for a while. Although they do not have a timeline yet, Hammond said, “We are working on plans to start adding them back in gradually and safely.”
Throughout the past year dealing with COVID-19, SCLs have spent much time advertising their vast amount of online resources. With a library card, you can access movies, newspapers, ebooks, audiobooks, and much more.
“We have had a huge increase in the amount of e-library cards requested,” said Hammond.
As stated on the SCL’s website, their mission is “to bring information, ideas, and people together to build a stronger community.” In the midst of a pandemic, a library can be very important to its community.
“[The library] serves as a place to get books and they hold activities where kids can have fun as well. Basically, it’s a great place to go,” said Kim. “I understand why they are opening slowly and personally think it the best option. I’m hoping that it will be fully open when school starts next year.”