Rambler Newspapers

Serving Irving, Coppell and Grand Prairie

Grand Prairie, Irving, Coppell — Select public library locations and branches in Grand Prairie, Coppell and Irving are set to reintroduce drive-thru window, curbside delivery, and virtual services to the public.

Friday, May 1, marked the beginning of the first of three phases of Gov. Greg Abbott’s strategic plan to safely reopen Texas. Libraries were given the go-ahead to reopen at 25 percent capacity as part of phase one; however, interactive functions or exhibits that are part of any museum or library, including child play areas, must remain closed.

While some North Texans emerged from their homes over the weekend and began taking steps toward reintegrating back into life post-shelter-in-place orders, many others chose to wait it out a bit longer. Similarly, many local city buildings and public facilities will remain closed until further notice to protect community members from the spread of COVID-19. Of those public facilities, local libraries are extending closures.

Peter Sime, senior circulation librarian for Grand Prairie Library, says the library continues to aggressively serve its customers with a focus on virtual services.

“We can do just about anything virtually that we could do inside the building,” Sime said. “We are offering no-contact checkouts. Customers can call us from the parking lot and order books using their library card number and our staff then goes outside and places the prints on a table and gets back on the line to notify them they are ready.

“We also have personal shoppers on staff who collect book orders from the website. This is especially important for parents who are currently homeschooling, and it creates a contactless approach that is actually safer than a drive-thru window option. We have tons of virtual programs to offer that were available even before the closures began.”

The library has also extended its Wi-Fi network to the parking lot for community members who may not have access to the internet at home, while the library’s website also makes it possible for those who do not have a library card to start the process and begin checking out books immediately online.

“Parents can still have access to age appropriate books and all of the other virtual learning programs offered on the website,” Sime said. “Staff is here Monday through Friday from Noon until 6 p.m. and Saturdays 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. for those are busy working during the week and need to come over the weekend.”

The building is ready, and although there is a plan in place to open its doors to the public safely, officials will continue to monitor the situation before doing so.

“Our target date is June 1 to open back up,” Sime said. “We’re going to see how things go in the meantime. The building is already set up to align with Gov. Abbott’s phase one guidelines. For now, the most convenient way to utilize our programs is to visit the website or call the main location as well as the Warmack location.”

Beginning Wednesday, May, 6, Irving Public Library will offer limited services to the public, including drive-thru window and curbside delivery for the first time since its closure on March, 23, as a result of Gov. Abbott’s executive order that closed nonessential businesses. The library has no plans to reopen its doors to the public any time soon and plans to stick with the contactless pick-up services for now.

Ben Toon, senior library services manager for Irving Public Library, says one of the biggest hurdles for the city’s library locations is the requirement put in place to quarantine items coming back, including books and DVDs.

“The recommendation is three days for items coming back to us at drop-off locations, so we aren’t able to reshelf the books right away,” Toon said. “We wear gloves when collecting the returns and leave them outside in the UV-rays for a while before bringing them in.”

The social distancing regulations in place are also making it difficult for the library to keep enough staff in the buildings at the same time.

“We are really just working to get staff back in place,” Toon said. “That’s the biggest thing for us right now. We are playing with some hard rules with keeping staff safe.”

Toon anticipates a possible reopening of the library to the public to come sometime in the next couple of months.

“A library by appointment system will mostly be put into place for the people who need to come in and use our computers,” Toon said. “We do offer an extended Wi-Fi network as far as it will allow 24/7 for now, and we rolled out new virtual programs in April for story time and for people who like to take craft classes. We are working with state guidelines in mind and with city leaders to ensure the most important thing, which is safety.”

The library by appointment system will potentially begin during Phase Two of Gov. Abbott’s plan.

Coppell Public Library and Cozby Library will also remain closed to the public, while offering curbside pick-up options beginning May, 4. Full-service pick-up is set to begin on Monday, May 11. Virtual programs are available online.