GONZALES — Gonzales Library now has adjusted hours three days a week for pickup service, allowing residents to check out books, DVDs, CDs and audiobooks that they previously did when library shelves could be browsed in person.
The library is open Tuesdays from 2 to 6 p.m., Thursdays 12 to 4 p.m., and Fridays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This is a shift from the earlier model, in which all three days were 12 to 4 p.m.
Patrons can place requests for items through the Monterey County Free Libraries website, emcfl.org, or call in their request to 831-883-7555, then pick up the items locally in Gonzales.
“The way we have it structured covers a full business day each week — allowing patrons who want to come and pick up items to have various times they can do that,” said Christopher Gallegos, Gonzales librarian. “Extended hours/days are likely coming soon as things pick up.”
The library system phone number isn’t specific to Gonzales, and a librarian from Monterey County will answer calls made to it. Though they may not be from Gonzales, they will be able to help check out items to be sent to Gonzales. They are also available to answer reference questions.
The pick-up process for the Gonzales Library is for a patron to drive to the library and call 831-675-2209 to let the staff know they’ve arrived. Library staff will then go through the checkout process and place the items on a table in front of the library for the patron to grab. If a patron arrives on foot, they’re asked to remain 6 feet away until the staffer has returned to the building.
Returns are done by putting items in the book drop in front of the library. The staff do not have hand-to-hand contact with patrons during either process.
“Safety is paramount during all of this,” Gallegos said. “The curbside format is the one method that allows us to serve our public while still maintaining social distance protocols and hand-to-hand contact.”
Copies, faxes and scans can also be made through a contactless process but for fees, just as they were done when patrons could go inside libraries.
Inside, staff members clean tables and items used in the curbside service. They also wear face masks and maintain social distancing. They undergo temperature checks each morning before going into the library. Books that re-enter the library system through the drop-off are quarantined for seven days.
The library is also providing after-school homework help, Monday through Friday, 3 to 5 p.m., through Zoom.
In the near future, the Gonzales branch will serve as a voting ballot drop site, beginning Oct. 5 and through Nov. 3.
Gallegos explained Gonzales and other library branches chose the model to provide some level of service with the public while Covid-19 safety protocols are observed.
“Some form of in-person service is essential for a community like Gonzales,” Gallegos said. “We are small, rural and support one another. In communities of this size and ‘small town character,’ it is heartbreaking to just shut everything down for good. We want to do what we can while still keeping patrons and staff safe.”
Gallegos said people have appreciated the service, and the branch is looking into offering window-browsing displays where shelves of books could be placed near the front windows.
“If a person sees something they like, they can always give us a call and ask for the book to be checked out to them,” Gallegos said. “This idea was initially used to great effect at our Prunedale Library and is looking to work out well at Gonzales too.”
Service has been ongoing at the Gonzales branch since June, when they operated the Lunch at the Library program, a summer-only program, in partnership with Greenfield High School. That segued into curbside service in its earliest form in July.
“The next step is providing in-person computer appointments,” Gallegos said. “We will likely also add another day of curbside service as things pick up.”
There is currently no timeline for when services will be added, such as the window browsing. However, the branch will soon again offer lunch service on Thursdays, with times to be finalized.