Call Pathfinder – Online, In-Person and Curbside Libraries: Many Ways to Check It Out, Stay Safe, and Read on!

Hand holding cell phone

Caller:  Hi. I am retired and very tired of staying home.  But my wife and I and my kids’ families, outside of Tennessee, have decided we are not going to gather for Christmas. That’s really hard, but we believe strongly in following the experts’ recommendations and taking all precautions to stay well during this pandemic.  I am thinking of ways to support my kids and grandkids, but I’m so sad I won’t get to hug them … the youngest ones probably won’t even remember me. For them, I was thinking about doing a video of myself, reading to them.  Reading is one of my favorite things to do with them when they are at our house.  I want to pick out some children’s books and use them in the video. I’m going to buy them the same books for under the tree, or at least coordinate with their parents to have the books checked out and in their homes. So, I want to go to the library (even though I’m sort of scared to go anywhere), and I’m not sure how it works now.

Pathfinder: Great question!
During this pandemic time, the easiest way to find out about any library is to call or email them before you go. In Pathfinder, you can find contact information for any library, anywhere in Tennessee.

From the search page, use the pull-down directory in Step 1 to click on the Library category; and in Step 2, use the pull-down directory to click on your county. Then click Submit.

Hours and days of operation and ways libraries are operating, are getting changed when statistics show changes in how a county or community is being impacted by the coronavirus. Some of the changes are mandated by the librarian, or by state or county health departments; sometimes it is mandated by the type of facility housing the library, for example, it may be a government-owned building. Sometimes the changes are quickly updated on the library’s website, but often they aren’t. One requirement you can expect is for patrons to wear a mask, and you will see signs on the door.

I checked with several libraries to give you an idea of different ways public libraries have been adapting to the national emergency — trying to keep readers safe without keeping them from reading. Curbside service only is what the Jackson-Madison County libraries and many others used exclusively earlier in the year. Libraries in the Nashville area are still doing all curbside. Patrons don’t come in, and books are ordered in advance by calling or emailing, and then people drive to the library and park. Library staff bring the bagged materials to the car (or in some places to the library door), once you let them know you are there. Materials are placed in open vehicle trunks or hatches, and library cards are checked through closed vehicle windows. Earlier in the year, Kingston Springs Library in South Cheatham County was also all curbside. Bagged materials were identified with patrons’ names and were placed outside on the porch for pickup. Books that were returned were quarantined before being shelved again.

Operations have changed several times since then for many libraries. The Jackson-Madison County Library for a while went to a sort of hybrid model, where the main location was open to patrons three hours in the morning, and then curbside for six hours in the afternoon. Now it is open to patrons during the weekdays, but with no chairs. You can’t sit down at a table and read the paper or work with your own laptop. Open hours are still reduced from pre-pandemic times, and Saturdays are curbside only.  A time limit of two hours has been placed on use of the library computers.

The small log cabin library in Kingston Springs is open to patrons again, but they are limited to a 15-minute visit. The desk where books are checked out has a new plexiglass barrier.

Ebook readership is up somewhat as you might expect.  Access to ebook collections is free and may be found on library websites. And in case you haven’t found it yet, the Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL) is a fantastic resource.

TEL is an online library that gives Tennessee residents free access to magazines, journals, newspapers, essays, e-books, and primary source materials. It also has sections for Homework Help, Test Prep (for academic and occupational exams like ACT, AP, EMT, and Civil Service); Career Tools; and Genealogy.

Check it out and read on!