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Spokane libraries closed for browsing again as COVID-19 cases rise

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 19, 2020

Spokane Public Library South Hill Branch assistant Michele Cady delivers books to a person waiting curbside Thursday in Spokane.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Spokane Public Library South Hill Branch assistant Michele Cady delivers books to a person waiting curbside Thursday in Spokane. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Browsing the aisles at local libraries was fun while it lasted.

In the Spokane Public Library, that was for all of two weeks, until rising COVID-19 numbers in the county forced all branches back to curbside service only.

Patrons in the Spokane Country Library District had an even more abridged experience: three days.

“It’s been quite a roller coaster,” said Jane Baker, communications director for the county system, which opened for limited browsing on Thursday only to revert to curbside pickup on Sunday.

It wasn’t Gov. Jay Inslee’s news conference announcing new statewide restrictions at the beginning of the week that led to the change. The new restrictions didn’t apply to libraries.

Instead, it was the surging numbers in Spokane County that led to both districts calling for a retreat until at least Dec. 15. The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 414 coronavirus cases Thursday, the second-highest daily amount since the start of the pandemic.

City libraries began offering limited browsing and checkout earlier this month. For patrons who’d been shut out of libraries since March, the offer was a blessing and reservations were filled days in advance.

“There was definitely a demand,” said Amanda Donovan, director of marketing and communications.

“But based on the (COVID-19) numbers in the state and the district, we thought it was in the best interests of the community to have no more grab-and-go service,” Donovan said.

City libraries will continue to offer limited computer access, by appointment only.

“That’s not something you can offer curbside,” Donovan said.

According to Donovan, the decision to suspend browsing was made by Executive Director Andrew Chanse.

It was the same story in the county system.

“There was a good reason to reassess, based on the community spread that was going on,” Baker said. “The district wants to be a good community partner, though it’s unfortunate that we have to close again.”

In the city, curbside pickup is available at all locations, including walk-in pickup at STA Plaza. Book returns are available at STA Plaza, South Hill, Hillyard, East Side, NorthTown and Indian Trail.

All items will be isolated or quarantined for at least 72 hours after being returned. That means the item will still show on accounts for at least three days after leaving in the book drop.

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