Pasco County residents once again can walk into a library and check out a book.
Or, spend time on a computer doing online searches.
Or, find a magazine to their liking.
As of May 18, Pasco County libraries are open for business — with the exception of the Zephyrhills Branch Library, which is offering curbside service only at this time.
The county’s reopened libraries do have limitations to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19). For one thing, they’re closed from noon to 1 p.m., each day, for cleaning.
Capacity is limited, too. Plus, face masks are required of both patrons and staff.
There are a limited number of face masks available for those lacking one.
Floor space is marked off for social distancing. And, computer time is by appointment only.
Self-checkout is available for books and magazines.
Curbside pickup is still available, and is encouraged.
“Our curbside pickup is the star of the show,” said Catherine Seavey, librarian at the Land O’ Lakes Branch Library.
Curbside service began a week before the libraries reopened.
At the Land O’ Lakes branch, patrons drive to the back of the building, park in one of the curbside slots and wait for a librarian to bring out their pre-ordered book selection.
“That’s been especially popular,” said Bob Harrison, marketing program manager for Pasco County library system.
In fact, it’s so popular, the service likely will continue even after the libraries are fully reopened, Harrison said.
Currently, under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order, libraries can operate at 50% capacity.
Pasco County has opted to be more conservative, with as few as nine patrons at a time in the Hugh Embry Branch Library in Dade City and as many as 36 at once at the Hudson Regional Library, in Hudson.
“We decided to be very slow, very cautious. The safety of our patrons, and our staff, take priority,” Harrison said.
Library officials will monitor health reports on infections before increasing capacity, he added.
Patrons are slowly starting to return.
“While it certainly is not as busy as it usually is, there are definitely people coming in.”
Lutz resident Jessica Meisenbach said she brought her three children, a 16-year-old and 11-year-old twins, to the Land O’ Lakes branch soon after the doors opened.
They prefer reading books rather than E-books, she said.
She’s with them.
She was at the library on Thursday morning, making her own book selections.
“I can’t do virtual reading. I like my own little book,” Meisenbach said.
Wesley Chapel resident Ian Boyne browsed the library’s “New Book” shelf.
“I’m really tired of re-reading all my Stephen King books. I have nothing to read,” he said.
While libraries have reopened, not all areas or activities are available.
The makerspaces, seating areas and study rooms remain closed, and story times for children remain online and virtual.
The COVID-19 shutdown has had the effect of boosting the library’s already strong online presence with additional virtual activities.
Patrons are accustomed to E-books and audio books, Harrison said.
But, during the shutdown, librarians looked for more ways to use technology, too.
In addition to the curbside service, there could be other and newer online activities that will continue, Harrison said.
“Libraries in general, and Pasco, in particular, pride ourselves on innovation,” Harrison said.
For library hours and other information, visit PascoLibraries.org.
Published May 27, 2020