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Arts & Life

Book Drops Open Again At Mid-Continent Public Library Branches, And Returns Pour In

Picture of hands wearing blue sanitary gloves to handle library books
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR
Gloved hands belonging to Branch Manager Andrew Phillips and Assistant Branch Manager Colleen Norman load up a cart Tuesday morning with returns at the North Independence Branch of Mic-Continent Public Library. Books and other materials were allowed to be returned starting Monday to MCPL branches.

Returned materials will go through their own version of quarantine — 72 hours in a community room — before going back into circulation.

Mid-Continent Public Library patrons and staff expressed eagerness to press on as the library system stripped “closed” signs from drop boxes Monday and allowed the public to start returning materials. MCPL will be quarantining materials for 72 hours before putting them back into circulation. Starting May 18, library patrons can pick up loans through curbside service, but the branch buildings will remain closed to customers until further plans are finalized.

“It’s welcome news,” said long-time customer William Gardner who, with his wife, was waiting first in line at the Lee’s Summit branch.

Picture of a woman wearing a face mask affixing a sign to a library book drop
Carlos Moreno

Megan Garrett, the branch manager at MCPL Lee’s Summit tapes on the quarantine notice on a drop box at 8 a.m. Monday morning before customers started showing up with materials. One customer was already waiting before Garrett and her team prepped drop boxes on Monday. Other customers slowly started trickling into the parking lot shortly thereafter.

Picture of a woman wearing a bandana over her mouth waves goodbye to a library worker holding a bag of returned materials
Carlos Moreno

Peggy Gardner, right, hands off a bag of audiobooks to Lee’s Summit Branch Manager Megan Garrett on Monday. Gardner and her husband, William, had parked at the curb of the library early Monday and were the first to return materials to this branch which is also the highest circulating branch in the system. Peggy said, “We thought it’d be packed so we came early.”

Picture of a man in a hoodie and a baseball hat returning a book into a library dropbox
Carlos Moreno

Lee’s Summit resident Mike Myers drops off an armful of mystery fiction books into the drop box at MCPL Lee’s Summit branch Monday morning. Myers said he was glad the library had begun some service.

“I’m happy about it but not sure how curbside is going to work,” he said, explaining his uncertainty about the library’s future plans.

Myers reiterated what a lot of patrons said: he prefers to browse the shelves to look at covers and flip through the pages of a book rather than browsing the library's website. “You’re hitting or missing trying to find things,” he said of searching online.

Picture of two women wearing face masks and wheeling a cart of returned library books into the library
Carlos Moreno

By mid-morning on Monday, library pages Maryann Jonas, left, and Marilyn Wand had to team up to ferry a load of returned materials into the Lee’s Summit branch of Mid-Continent Public Library. Both women said the amount of materials coming in exceeded their expectations.

“I’m amazed this many people have returned them,” Wand said. “Maybe they’ve been stacking up at home and they wanted to get rid of them. This is more than I expected for the first day.”

051220_library reopening book quarantine_CM.jpg
Carlos Moreno

North Independence Branch Manager Andrew Phillips estimated they had collected a few thousand returns as of Tuesday morning. Now, the materials will sit in quarantine for 72 hours in Community Rooms 1 and 2. Phillips said after the books are quarantined, the cart gets sanitized, the gloves get tossed away, hands get washed, and they prepare for the next round of collections.

Even though the buildings are not physically open to the public, Phillip explained he was glad occasionally meeting people as they dropped off materials and to be having more physical presence in the library again.

“We’re excited to serve our communities outside the digital services we’ve been offering these last two months,” he said. “We’re excited to have those interactions again and see our customers and for them to see us.”

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