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The Multnomah County Library tries a new idea at the Woodstock branch to help pandemic readers

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFDF - Woodstock resident Ned Holbrook is shown picking up a book from one of the 90 self-service hold lockers outdoors off the Woodstock Library parking lot. He entered his library card number on the screen, and his locker door popped open with his book inside. The pandemic has brought many changes into our lives. Fortunately, some of them have been innovative and positive.

To accommodate public health during a time when physical distancing is necessary to stay healthy, Multnomah County Library reported right after the New Year that they have introduced a new and innovative way for patrons to pick up on-hold library items: Self-service lockers for library on-hold pickups have been added outside at two Inner Southeast Portland library branches. The Woodstock and Holgate branches were chosen for the experiment, based on several factors.

David Lee, Administrator of the Woodstock Branch Library since February of last year, told THE BEE, "The library locker project team chose these locations based on facilities; 'holds' data considerations; owned library buildings that have ample, secure outdoor space for a large locker system that could accommodate 24/7 access; and adequate access to Internet and power."

Lee was a member of the Library Lockers Project Team, which consisted of twelve people from different workgroups in the library system. He explained, "The locker idea came about from conversations held about how the library could adapt its services to meet the needs of the community, back when the pandemic began."

When placing a hold on items, library patrons can now choose to pick them up from a self-service "hold locker". After a notice arrives by e-mail, phone, or text, telling the patron that items are ready for pickup at the locker, people can go to the library with their library card (or number) and their password within three days of the notice. They scan their card, or enter the number on the screen located at the center of the block of lockers adjacent to the parking lot.

This seems to meet the need. Woodstock resident Ned Holbrook says his family walks frequently in the neighborhood, so having three days to pick up an item from a locker is no problem for them.

These lockers make it possible for people whose jobs or childcare limit their ability to get out and pick up books, audio books, CDs, and DVDs during regular library hours. And, for people with concerns about COVID-19 contagion, this is a no-contact option. It also seems that lockers are a fun way for individuals or families to pick up their items on hold.

However, picking up items at the front door by making an online or telephone appointment is still an option. Lee said, "If a patron misses their appointment and does not pick up their items at the front door, we will [still] hold them for 6 days." Once at the front door, people are asked to wear a mask and distance.

The long-term future of "hold lockers" is not yet certain. Lee remarked, "The Library Lockers Project team will evaluate the success of the lockers, and then determine if we will continue to offer this service permanently after COVID passes."

Learn more online at www.multcolib.org – where information is available in Spanish, Mandarin, Russian, Vietnamese, and English.


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