Brainerd library starts new chapter with curbside service

The local library’s pickup service consists of two phases. The first phase involves the library fulfilling requests of library system materials that were made in March.

Wearing a mask and gloves, a woman brings out the bagged books and leaves them on a table for a waiting library user, who was also wearing a mask and waiting by her vehicle, at the Brainerd Public Library Thursday, April 23. Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

Brainerd lakes area residents can now add their local library to the growing list of businesses and institutions offering curbside pickup services.

The Brainerd Public Library recently began calling library patrons to notify them if they had requested materials ready to pick up and to schedule an appointment for pickup.

“Almost all the libraries in our region are now offering some form of curbside pickup,” said Jenny Hill, manager of the Brainerd library, which is part of the Kitchigami Regional Library System.

The local library’s pickup service consists of two phases. The first phase involves the library fulfilling requests of library system materials that were made in March.

“We thought it was most fair to approach getting materials to people in the order they were requested,” Hill said.


More than 250 library patrons had items waiting for them to pick up when the Brainerd Public Library on South Fifth Street closed its doors March 18 due to coronavirus concerns.

“Our library staff has been calling all of those people to see if they want to use the curbside pickup service and setting appointments,” Hill said.

The Brainerd Public Library is still receiving deliveries from other library branches, but the items have to be quarantined for 48 hours, and so there will be a delay before they can be picked up.

“The ability to make requests online was never halted … so phase two will be moving to filling those requests made since March and notifying those patrons that their materials are ready to pick up,” Hill said of phase two, adding she does not have an estimate when that will begin.

No one who has items checked out now will be charged any overdue fees, according to Hill.

“Given the physical location of the book drop by the library’s front doors, we are not able to maintain 6-foot distancing for our staff and people picking up curbside as well as having people returning items to the book drop,” Hill said of the library not currently accepting items.

The Brainerd Public Library Board met April 15 to discuss the implementation of curbside pickup service.

“On the one hand, any activity that encourages people to leave their home during the shelter-in-place order could be considered contradicting that order since it involves bringing more library staff back to our building and obviously bringing customers out as well,” Hill said.


The library board was asked at the April 15 meeting to make a recommendation to the Brainerd City Council regarding curbside pickup, and the recommendation was in favor; some cities in Minnesota have not allowed their libraries to offer curbside pickup, according to Hill.

“From the time we closed on March 18, we would have a couple of requests per week via Facebook, email or phone message, asking for curbside pick up,” Hill said.

When the Brainerd library closed, patrons with a library card were still able to view online the Kitchigami Regional Library System's materials, such as ebooks, audiobooks and magazines.

“Each of the other libraries worked with their cities and now almost all offer the service. Because of varying sizes of the cities (and libraries and staff) as well as other factors of each library’s physical building, they are each handling it a bit differently,” Hill said of other branch libraries.

The Brainerd Public Library is not accepting returns of library system materials or donations of items at this time for safety reasons.

“We stopped accepting them at the point when we had conflicting information on safe handling. Sources ranged from two to eight days for the amount of time the virus could still be found on paper or plastic or other hard surfaces such as DVD cases,” Hill said.

All programs, classes, events, room bookings and AARP Tax-Aide appointments were also canceled at the Brainerd Public Library when it closed in response to state and federal recommendations regarding COVID-19.

“No date has been set (to reopen the library) although we are researching best practices for social distancing, just like any other entity who serves the public is doing now,” Hill said.


Brainerd library curbside pickup procedure

  • The staff calls patrons who have items on the library’s hold shelf and sets up an appointment time.

  • Two tables are set up outside the front doors, 6 or more feet apart for social distancing.

  • Staff checks materials out to a patron, puts them in a bag and attaches a request slip to the outside.

  • At the appointment time, the patron calls from their car when they arrive outside the library.

  • The staff lets the patron know to pull up to the table and to remain in their vehicle while the staff puts materials on the table outside.

  • Patron retrieves material after the staff person has reentered the building.

FRANK LEE, county and features reporter, may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write mostly features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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