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WCLS prepares for phased return to service

View Phase 2 service schedule updates here.

Now that Whatcom County is moving to Phase 2 of Washington’s Safe Start plan, Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) staff are ready to go with a safe phased approach to services.

Reopening will happen in stages to protect the health of library staff and the public. WCLS’s plan follows science-based public health guidelines.

STEP ONE: Process holds and returns

  • Staff will return to designated work locations and branch book returns will open on Monday, June 8.
  • Library buildings and remote book returns will remain closed to the public.
  • We are unable to accept book donations at this time.
  • Staff will continue to follow health and safety recommendations, including screening, physical distancing and wearing face masks. All surfaces will be sanitized. All returned library materials will be quarantined for 72 hours before returning to circulation.

As soon as we get caught up, our next step will be to schedule curbside holds pickups at dates to be announced.

All Phase 2 transactions will take place outside library buildings. Library staff will be managing the return of 111,630 books and other library materials and distributing 3,886 items patrons currently have on hold. We know you’re eager to receive new library materials, and we’re excited to get them to you! We’ve developed procedures to safely and efficiently handle materials. When the time comes, we will announce these steps on our website, on social media, and in email messages to patrons. Thanks for your patience as we begin our controlled processes.

Additional services will follow when we move to Phase 3. Full library services will return in Phase 4. Until then, library programming will continue online, including summer reading programs for all ages. Visit wcls.org/summerreading for details. Our online calendar at wcls.org lists even more programs. Need help? Call library staff at (360) 305-3600.

It has been wonderful to see more and more community members discovering our online services. However, we recognize that not everyone in our community has stable access to the internet. We’ll continue to work with community partners to address this inequity. Wi-Fi service can be accessed from our parking lots.

Compared to the same period last year, new users of eBooks and eAudiobooks jumped 131% and checkouts increased 43%. In response, WCLS increased spending on digital collections by 134% for the months of March, April and May. Other digital services also saw tremendous growth. Use of NewsBank, a paywall-free newspaper archive, increased 534% as people referred to its comprehensive, relevant news coverage. Lynda.com, a vast library of instructional videos, saw a 439% increase in use, as people used it to advance their computer skills, get help with resume writing, learn to play the ukulele, be a better photographer, and more. Use of Kanopy, our streaming video service, also increased (315%), as did RBDigital eMagazine access (42%), Mango Languages (34%), and other digital services. Our physical libraries may have been closed, but the digital library was very much open.

Thank you for your patience during this time. We look forward to offering full services again. Meanwhile, stay well and stay tuned for curbside holds pickup services and more.