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Libraries are beginning to reopen in Southeast Portland, but leading the way was the Holgate Branch Library

DAVID F. ASHTON - Its a happy day - as the first Multnomah County Library building in Inner Southeast Portland finally reopened to the public on June first. These patrons were visiting the Holgate Branch Library. Patrons of Multnomah County Library system were delighted to learn that a few of their buildings had reopened to the public as restrictions eased after the COVID-19 pandemic began to subside just before the start of summer, on June 1st – and the first one to be open in Inner Southeast was the Holgate Library, on Holgate Boulevard just west of S.E. 82nd Avenue of Roses.

"Indeed, this is a big day for us; it is the first day that five of our public library locations are open for in-building access services," exclaimed MCL Neighborhood Library Director Annie Lewis, in the Holgate Branch Library building. Both Woodstock and Sellwood branches were still closed at that time.

In fact, during the pandemic, all County Library branches closed their doors to the public, back in March last year. "But, that did not mean that our services to patrons ended," Lewis assured THE BEE. "We started curbside 'hold pickup' service shortly after the closure.

"And, we've also been offering a lot of outreach services – delivering to locations outside of our physical buildings, to provide book access to communities," Lewis pointed out. "Our digital [online offerings] circulation has increased significantly during COVID, as you might expect. We've increased the number of titles that are available to access digitally, as well as expanding our 'virtual services', including Online Storytimes, online tutoring, and a number of different services."

After months of preparation for the reopening, the Holgate Library's Administrator Silvana Gabriell announced that the building was ready again to receive visitors.

"We've shifted around books and digital materials, like DVDs, within the stacks to make sure that when people come in, they have space in which to browse – yet still remain socially distanced," pointed out Gabriell.

It was a lot of work for her and her staff, Gabriell conceded. "But, seeing how it went, and how many happy faces we've had, it's really paid off. It was the best feeling in the world. People said they were so thankful to be able again to come in!"

Holgate, and other library buildings permitting the public to enter, are allowing patrons to arrive in "shifts" that rotate throughout the day. The best way to find the current hours and days and the current library branches open is go online –

Multnomah County Library Director of Communications and Strategic Initiatives Shawn Cunningham announced at the Holgate Library, "We're working to open other library buildings in our system. The County Library will open more buildings in phases, and expand services over time."

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