A steady stream of cars pulled up to the curb outside the front doors of the Lynchburg Public Library’s Memorial Avenue site Monday afternoon. Though the doors were locked, and notices of closure plastered the windows, library patrons idled by the entrance with their trunks popped.
Beginning this week, the Lynchburg Public Library is offering curbside pickup on holds — a way to continue sharing its materials with the public, while curbing fears of the coronavirus spread.
Armed with rubber gloves, library staff hustled out the front doors to deposit the stacks of books in the open trunks of the parked cars.
By the end of their afternoon service window, library staff had checked out more than 260 hold items to 62 borrowers, according to Circulation Supervisor Ona Dowdy.
Dowdy said the phones were ringing nonstop, and though no one knew what to expect, the day went smoothly.
“We are very pleased that we have a way to continue to serve our citizens in a way which we feel keeps us all safe,” Dowdy said.
With many residents homebound or cooped up on couches, continued access to the library feels like a luxury. Only two weeks into the spread of the virus in Virginia, empty parking lots and casual greetings shouted across six feet of space were beginning to feel like the new normal.
Heidi Lang got out of her car at the library curb with a wet wipe in hand, using it to navigate the book drop without making contact with the metal lip of the bin.
“I’m becoming so paranoid,” she said. “Now I’m off to the post office where I’m going to be even more paranoid.”
Workarounds, like the library’s curbside pickup, gives her hope, she said.
“I think it’s lovely. I’ve been amazed to see people thinking outside the box,” Lang said.
For library patron Kalenna Atwell, she was halfway through a fantasy series and desperately needed the next book. She said this seemed like a good system to help stop the spread, but she isn’t too worried about the virus.
What does worry her, she said, are the empty shelves in the grocery store. With four children, it was a scramble to find necessities like bread and eggs. New books in the backseat for her and her children will help fill the time.
Library Director Marilyn Martin said she and her staff saw at least 100 more holds on Monday than they typically get. And though many of the patrons were regulars, a lot of people, particularly parents, were desperate for reading material.
With budget money left to spend, Martin said she was diverting some funds from print materials to invest more in digital resources — a salve for coming weeks, especially if the increased spread means even curbside pick up will have to halt.
With eBooks, audiobooks and digital magazines available on the eLibrary — through programs like Hoopla, Overdrive and RB Digital — Martin said they are encouraging people to access all of the online resources available, especially now that homeschooling has fallen onto almost all parents’ shoulders.
For those without library cards, residents can apply for one online. Online cards are capable of accessing the digital libraries.
Martin encouraged print-loving patrons to stock up on materials now. With no idea what’s to come, she said it would be nice to have a “little stack” to keep you going.
The Bedford Public Library System is also offering curbside pickup at its six branches, and the Forest Library has seen so much traffic it has implemented special hours for the service.
Branch Manager Lauren Harper said the Forest Library actually has been offering curbside service for more than a year. What started as a special assistance for “those who needed a little extra help” — like the elderly, disabled, and pregnant or new moms — is now available to everyone.
Harper said the Forest branch has been getting slammed, sometimes with more than 70 visitors a day.
“I lost like seven pounds,” Harper said of the hustle. “I mean, really. I actually weighed myself.”
Like Martin, she encouraged patrons to check out the digital library, as well. Not only are there downloadable databases and ebooks, but hundreds of free classes anyone can take, as long as they have a library card. The library’s wifi is still accessible from the parking lot, she added.
To anyone stuck at home, she recommends “Duolingo,” a language-learning website and mobile app that can be accessed through the digital library.
Fantasy lovers can even learn dialects from “Game of Thrones,” or Klingon, a language spoken in the “Star Trek” universe.
Harper admits to teaching herself a little High Valyrian. Though, she said, she hasn’t mastered it.
“I think it’s fun, it’s educational,” she said. “Why not, right? You’re at home.”
Sarah Honosky covers Appomattox and Campbell counties at The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5556.