There are enough overdue library books in the home offices and on the dusty bookshelves of Spokane County residents to, well, fill a library.
Still, local public libraries are making progress in stockpiling the books, DVDs and CDs they asked patrons to hold onto during the coronavirus shutdown earlier this year.
The Spokane Public Library is working to wrangle 32,602 overdue items checked out prior to March 1 by more than 6,700 customers.
“We are staggering return dates and currently emailing customers with return reminders, 2,000 at a time, weekly,” said Amanda Donovan, a Spokane Public Library spokeswoman.
The Spokane County Library District had nearly 60,000 items overdue on Aug. 1, but made gains in recent weeks after it made a public call on social media to bring materials back.
Both library systems extended due dates in recognition of the COVID-19 crisis and neither charges late fees, but they will eventually consider an item lost and charge the borrower for it.
Like almost every business and institution, public libraries abruptly shut down as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the country in March.
Not only did they stop welcoming patrons inside their doors, but libraries also stopped accepting returns of books and other materials entirely.
When Spokane County entered Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan in May, the Spokane Public Library and Spokane County Library District were allowed to partially reopen for curbside pickup.
Though people are still not allowed to peruse the stacks in person, the library systems are supplying knowledge-thirsty readers with books by the thousands in parking lots throughout Spokane County.
They’re also urging people to return the library materials they held onto during the shutdown.
The Spokane County Library District
currently has 13,219 overdue items, a more typical number for the library to be waiting on.
“Once an item is two weeks past due, letters are sent out that the item is assumed lost,” spokeswoman Jane sBaker said. “This warning usually results in many of the items returned.”
Public libraries are allowed to welcome people back inside in Phase 3 of Inslee’s reopening plan. With Spokane County and the rest of Washington on an indefinite pause, local readers should, for now, get comfortable with curbside pickup.
To date, the Spokane Public Library has lent out 22,000 items via curbside pickup.
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