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Libraries using contactless pickup, offering books and more online

Posted on 13 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen


SPPL Librarian Maica Lelis places items on an outside table for contactless pickup. All items for pickup are packed by a gloved staff person, placed in a plastic bag, and delivered from a safe distance. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

When the Saint Paul Public Libraries (SPPL) closed their doors on March 16, they knew they had to quickly figure out how to best serve the needs of the community, while maintaining the health and safety of their staff and patrons.
By April 12, they had begun offering contactless pick-up for physical materials at five library locations. Since the first stay-at-home order went into effect, their selection of online resources has continued to grow.
At present, SPPL patrons are able to request materials for contactless pickup at these locations: George Latimer Central, Highland Park, Merriam Park, Rondo, and Sun Ray. These libraries have staff available Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. They can be reached by phone to answer questions and place holds, or patrons can request items online and pick them up at one of the five open branches. Patrons can also call 651-266-7000 (the George Latimer Central Library has extended phone hours) from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.
To place a hold online, visit www.sppl.org/staying-in, click on “catalog” and follow the prompts. A current Saint Paul Public Library card is needed with known user name and password.
Note that held items are not ready to be picked up until library staff contact you by phone or email. Items may show up as “ready for pick-up” on your library account, but you must wait to be contacted by a staff person. They are not yet able to send automated notices when materials are ready.
Contactless pick-up at the library looks like any other type of curbside pick-up. Patrons are asked to call when they arrive at the library, and then step a minimum of six feet away from the door. A gloved staff person will place items, wrapped in a plastic bag, on an outside table.
SPPL Public Services Manager Tracy Baumann said, “We aren’t taking any library returns at this time. We’ve extended all due dates until July 1. As usual, there are no fines and it doesn’t seem like we’re at risk for running out of library materials. SPPL will communicate guidance for safely returning library materials once that information becomes known.”

“While our physical locations are closed, we have found new and different ways to connect with our community. We have pivoted to make our library system work in a totally new environment.” ~ Tracy Baumann

Movies, music lessons, audio books, and more online
In addition to their physical collection of books, magazine, DVDs and CDs, the library has a wealth of digital resources for patrons to enjoy.
To access these, patrons can use their already activated SPPL card, or they can sign up online for an ecard. Only Saint Paul residents can apply for an ecard. Call any of the open branches for help getting started, if needed. Ecards can only be used for electronic resources. They cannot be used to place holds or check out physical items. Ecards are ready for use one to two business days after application has been completed, and residency information verified.
There is something for everyone in the online offerings, from entertainment to education and homework help. SPPL also helps patrons connect to many of the new internet offerings that have appeared during the pandemic. Listen to broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera or the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Stream one of 200 movies for free, with a periodically updated selection curated by SPPL staff. Visit RB Digital to access popular audio books and magazines with an ecard: https://stpaulmn.rbdigital.com/. Audio books and ebooks are also available through Cloud Library.
Baumann explained, “Many of the online resources have been around for a while, but people are taking advantage of them in much larger numbers. There’s a gift in that; patrons are discovering things they didn’t know we had before, like ‘Transparent Language Online’. There are more than 90 languages you can study through this program, including English. The ‘Ancestry Learning Library’ is a program we’ve had as a library-based subscription for years, but the company has made it available for home use during this difficult time.”
Through www.sppl.org/staying-in, the library has linked to opportunities for free music lessons on a variety of instruments, to view award-winning Omni Films from the Science Museum of Minnesota, or to watch live cam broadcasts from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s a rare day that can’t be brightened, at least a little, by seeing sea otters tumbling and jelly fish swimming.
According to Baumann, “The library’s transition has been both hard and easy. We’re doing the same things we’ve always done, but we’ve had to learn to do them differently – and very quickly. It’s hard for librarians not to see ‘their people.’ Library systems everywhere are responding as well as they can.”
Check www.sppl.org/staying-in frequently for new offerings and to connect with the Saint Paul Public Library on Facebook and Twitter for information on upcoming events.