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COVID-19 FAQ: Library taking steps to reopen

(This information will be updated as developments occur. To learn more about coronavirus, visit these local, state and federal sites. If you are having a medical emergency, call 911.)

All five Elkhart Public Library buildings are closed to the public currently, but plans have been put in place for a gradual restarting of public services. Staff is continuing to work while the buildings are closed, and questions for librarians may be sent through our contact page or by social media.

This Q&A is designed to help library users navigate the closing – if you don’t see the answer you need, please let us know.

NEW INFORMATION: As Indiana restarts after stay-at-home orders, what’s the timetable for reopening?
Our Board of Trustees and management team have spent countless hours crafting a reopening plan that adheres to the governor’s call for gradual progress and continued social distancing. Here’s an overview:

* Curbside pickup Read all about it by clicking here. Beginning Monday, May 18, we’ll contact cardholders with items on hold to pick up materials. Get your place in line by holding items – including, for a limited time, up to five DVDs – through our catalog.

* Computer access – Beginning Monday, May 18, our downtown computer center will be available by appointment only. Staff will be able to assist on a limited basis, and appointments for 30 minutes will be restricted to essential business, such as the filing of state and federal paperwork. The library also offers remote printing services, and pickup can be scheduled.

* Browsing of materials – As of right now, in an effort to enforce social distancing in our buildings per the guidelines provided by health officials, we do not expect to open our locations for browsing and reading until mid-June.

* Programs and meeting spaces – Our board and leadership strongly agree to heed the governor’s advice on gatherings. We will not be looking at scheduling programs or meeting rooms until after the July 4 holiday.

With all steps, the library will enforce protocols to help staff and visitors enjoy as healthy of an environment as possible.

NEW INFORMATION – What about the summer reading challenge?
Like almost everything else in 2020, our annual event will have a different look. But we are excited again to partner with Welch Packaging Group to offer incentives for children to keep enjoying books through the summer. This year’s grand prize is a trip to Orlando and Universal Studios – keep watching our Facebook page, listening to Froggy 102.7 FM, and looking at our Destination Imagination site for signup info and contest rules.

NEW INFORMATION – When the library does open, what health precautions should I expect?
Like most stores, we have installed plastic dividers at each of our service points. We will have floor markings for social distancing at checkout, and ask that you observe the minimum 6-foot distancing rule. We’ll be wearing masks, and hope you will, too. We’ll be using disinfectant on surfaces like door handles and countertops frequently. Computer users will find protective equipment that can be disposed of after use.

Basically, we want you and our staff to be safe and healthy. The situation is ever-changing – please refer to and observe all CDC guidelines and recommendations.

NEW INFORMATION – Does coronavirus live on books and plastic media cases?
Our staff in charge of curbside pickups have reviewed information from the CDC and a federal agency called the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Some public-health experts say the virus can live for 24 hours on some surfaces. With an abundance of caution, we have decided to quarantine all returned items for 72 hours before processing and returning to the system for checkout.

I have stuff that is due. Am I going to get overdue fines?
No. We are extending a grace period going back to March 9 and will be waiving those fines in our system. Then, after we reopen, people will have a week or so to get back into the flow and return what’s been borrowed. As always, kids and teens materials are fine free.

Can I bring back my overdue books? 
Yes. We have drop boxes next to the parking lots at each of our five locations. All we ask is that you please not leave items outside the boxes. 

Can you increase the number of checkouts on Hoopla?
This is an emphatic yes. During our emergency closing, we will allow each library cardholder up to eight checkouts on Hoopla, our streaming service for music, shows, audiobooks and more.

I hit my limit on Hoopla – now what?
We have a question for you: Have you checked out rbDigital and Libby for Overdrive? These great services have your next great read, with no limits and automatic returns. In Overdrive alone, we offer 5,300 ebooks and 1,100 audiobooks … and growing every day. We’re dedicating more of our purchasing power to these online resources to meet the demand during this closing and for the future. 

What’s in the Digital Library?
For starters, get your daily news and perspective from PressReader. Start crafting with Creativebug by Joann Fabrics. Start working on that family tree with a whole stack of genealogy resources. Learn a new language with Pronunciator. Dream big, go far … and it’s always available with an EPL card.

Can I sign up for a library card and try it online?
Yes! Our new Digital Services Card allows residents to register online. You’ll get an ID number and the info you need to start streaming, reading and exploring the Digital Library. This card is free – one per household, and cardholder must live or go to school inside the Elkhart Public Library district.

I can’t remember my PIN. Can you help?
During our closing, we have worked with our providers to eliminate the need to enter a PIN. On some applications, we aren’t quite there. If you need help, please refer to this post. If that doesn’t work, contact us and be sure to include which service you’re trying to access.

Can I still place holds in the catalog?
Sure. Just log in, search and request – that process hasn’t changed. We’ll let you know when the item is ready for curbside pickup.

Is the library staff still working?
Emphatic yes! Our buildings closed to the public, but really that means they are restricted to staff only. Librarians are working on local history files, acquiring new materials, entering all the Digital Services Cards requests, answering the usual reference questions, helping people resolve tech issues and navigate the Digital Library, developing online storytimes, and more. The IT crew is doing their thing, upgrading machines and software, maintaining servers, and keeping everything running for those working in the building and remotely. Our facilities staff is working on long-term maintenance projects, and administrators are meeting daily to provide board members with information and keep tabs on current info. Plus, we’re focused on our signature event – the summer reading challenge.

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