Southeast Regional and Perry libraries aim for a full reopening in early or mid-November.
Maricopa County Library District, which closed its 18 facilities March 16 due to the coronavirus pandemic, has been moving toward reopening in phases with the latest stage kicking off last Monday.
“Pop-In Pickup is the third phase, and is our first step in the process of safely allowing the public back into the building,” said district spokeswoman Samantha Mears.
“This phase will allow us the time to understand how we need to staff locations, where we may need to add new and additional procedures, and to ensure we can safely and sustainably open our doors fully.”
Mears said the Phase 4 launch date is uncertain though next month is looking good.
“We are currently solidifying the logistics of that phase,” she said, “but our goal is to increase library access as safely as possible.”
When the library does reopen, physical distancing and other measures will be in force “to keep everyone safe while inside the library.”
Mears said each phase of the district’s approach toward reopening has been done with oversight from the Board of Supervisors and local officials.
She added that the library district relies on data from the CDC and Maricopa County Department of Public Health to guide its decisions.
Gilbert contracts with the library district to operate both branches in town.
Gilbert owns the land, building and contents at Southeast Regional Library and shares ownership of the contents at Perry Library with Chandler Unified School District. The district owns the land and building.
In the latest phase district libraries open during designated hours for restricted browsing to a limited selection of material and services. The in-person events, computers, recorder kiosks, and study rooms remain unavailable.
Although their doors were closed, the libraries during phase 1 extended due dates on books already checked out, increased the number of electronic media items that could be checked out each month, increased livestream content and offered temporary digital cards and virtual appointments.
In the Book-a-Librarian offering, people can schedule a one-on-one phone call to receive professional help in the areas of homework, general reference questions, setting up devices to use digital library products or help with digital library content.
Appointments are available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.
Phase 2, which began April 22 was curbside and walkup service.
During the statewide closures from COVID-19, demand for library services naturally increased.
“Southeast Regional Library and Perry Library have been some of our most active branches since restricting public access on March 16, with a lot of customers using our curbside pickup, walkup pickup and other library services,” Mears said.
When the library buildings were closed in Gilbert, digital-only library cards were issued. Since March, Southeast Regional issued 775 new cards and Perry issued 243, according to Mears.
The two branches also saw an uptick in curbside pickup numbers since its launch in April with Southeast Regional reporting 35,750 pickups and Perry, 11,875, Mears said.
“I think that is quite telling on how the Gilbert community has stayed connected and engaged with the library,” she added.
Overall, digital resource usage for the library district over the last few months have grown.
“We’ve seen a 25 percent total increase in digital downloads and uses,” Mears said. “Keep in mind that this is the total combined, so we are seeing higher increases in certain resources than others.”
None of the nearby cities such as Mesa and Chandler have publicly disclosed when they plan to fully reopen their public libraries.
Public demand for library services has increased with libraries overall reporting increased use of virtual library cards, digital content and virtual programming, according to a May survey by the Public Library Association.
As libraries re-open, the respondents anticipated demand for access to physical and special collections, access to computers and the internet, helping students make up for lost ground, supporting faculty and teacher needs, and application support for government services and employment, according to the survey.
If you go
Southeast Regional Library
775 N. Greenfield Road.
Pop-in pickup: Monday-Thursday, 2– 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday closed. Masks required for 6 and older.
Curbside pickup: Monday-Thursday 10 a.m. –noon. Friday-Sunday, closed.
1965 E. Queen Creek Road
Pop-in pickup: Monday-Thursday, 1-7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, closed. Masks required for 6 and older.
Curbside pickup: Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.- noon. Friday-Sunday, closed.