Le Sueur Library COVID-19 response

Le Sueur Librarian Dianne Pinney drops off a bag of books outside the library. The library is using this set-up to give residents access to the library’s books, movies and magazines while doors remain shut due to the coronavirus. (Carson Hughes/Le Sueur County News)

The Le Sueur-Waseca Regional Library System announced March 26 that it is temporarily stopping its curbside and pickup offerings until at least April 10, as Minnesotans are asked to adhere to a new stay-at-home order. Friday, March 27 was the last day to pick up or get books delivered.

The COVID-19 pandemic has schools closed, adults working from home and city offices shuttered. All types of organizations have had to incorporate social distancing into their practices and the same is true for the Le Sueur-Waseca Regional Library System.

The libraries in Le Sueur, Le Center, Waseca, Elysian, Janesville, Montgomery, New Richland, Waldorf and Waterville closed their doors on March 18, but they’ve kept operating with new systems to get books into the hands of the people.

“With kids out of school and parents stuck at home, this is exactly when libraries are needed,” said Le Sueur librarian Dianne Pinney, who also leads programming for the system.

To fulfill that need, the libraries resolved to provide books, magazines, movies, educational materials and more to the community through a pick-up and delivery service. Instead of the usual check-in, books are now being brought to patrons directly.

At the Le Sueur library, people simply call in and tell the library what they want and when they want it. For a pickup, patrons head to the back door and a staff member will place a bag filled with books or other supplies on the table outside for the patron to take with them. If patrons wish for a delivery, the library is more than willing to bring books directly to your door.

There haven’t been any delivery requests so far, but the Le Sueur library has kept busy with pickups. As the days go by, more and more people have been using the service and a lot of them are having fun with it.

“It’s kind of a mixed bag,” said Pinney. “If you like to pick your own stuff out and can tell us what you want, but many people are having fun saying ‘This is what I like; surprise me.’ So it’s kind of like Christmas in March.”

“We’re more than willing to deliver them,” Pinney continued. “But most people are just happy to get in their car and come down here and get out of their house. They are so grateful to have 10 new books to read. It makes me happy.”

Similar systems are being used at all the libraries, including Le Center, where the library utilizes the double doors at the entrance to drop off bags while maintaining social distancing.

“We’re all in this together,” said Le Center Branch Supervisor Lynn Selly. “Waseca-Le Sueur, all nine libraries are trying to do the same thing.”

It’s been a slow start, but as word has spread, more have come to the Le Center library for their reading needs.

“It’s been much quieter than when we’re open,” said Selly. “But it’s kind of taking hold now. People think we’re closed closed, but when I call them and say ‘you have a book here,’ they say ‘We didn’t know we could do this. Ok, this is great.’ And these are mostly patrons that would probably not have Facebook.”

While patrons can pick up books, they shouldn’t return them at this time. The libraries have requested that residents keep the books they’ve checked out for the time being to prevent the spread of the virus. In the meantime, all late fees have been waived.

“We’ve asked people not to bring anything back because the COVID germ can live on a book for a number of days,” said Pinney. “So we’re asking everybody to keep everything until we reopen. The things that have been returned, we put on carts with gloves on and we roll them into the meeting room and they have to sit there for eight days and then we can check them in.”

Beyond pickups and delivery, patrons can access the Le Sueur-Waseca Regional Library System’s online collection of books through OverDrive. Patrons can also use their library cards to enjoy a free subscription with CreativeBug, which provides access to thousands of online arts and crafts classes.

“We can see that this is when libraries are needed by what’s being asked for us to provide,” said Pinney. “For example, today we got requests by someone who needed help working on math, so they needed books on doing STEM things with their kids. If they don’t have something at home, which most people don’t and they don’t have access to their school anymore, where are you going to find it? … This is when libraries are needed so badly.”

Reach Reporter Carson Hughes at 507-931-8575. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All Rights Reserved.

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