KCLS Sets its Recovery Plan in Motion

Time to reopen. These are words we are all longing to hear.

With cautious optimism, the King County Library System is developing plans for reopening its doors to the public, using a phased approach that follows state and public-health guidelines.

It is exciting to think about a return to “normalcy” and ultimately restoring patrons’ ability to visit libraries, check out books and attend programs. We do recognize that normalcy may ultimately look a bit different than it used to. We have learned to use new tools and reimagine new ways to serve you, and we will use that knowledge as we move forward with future programming.

But before that happens, reopening will occur in stages to protect the safety of staff and the public. KCLS’ Recovery Plan aligns with Governor Inslee’s four-phased Safe Start plan, a data-driven approach based on public-health information.

KCLS is doing all it can to carefully proceed beyond Phase 1, which began when libraries closed March 16. Since then, the Library System has focused heavily on digital opportunities, helping patrons to stay connected, informed and entertained online.

Our plan for Phase 2 involves bringing staff back to designated work locations to begin preparations for Phase 3, while keeping buildings closed to the public. Staff will continue to follow health and safety recommendations, including screening, physical distancing and wearing face masks.

Phase 3 will consist of two sub-phases. In Phase 3A, all KCLS buildings will remain closed to the public, but limited public services will be available, such as “Curbside to Go” pickup of books and materials, book returns and possibly limited mobile services. Physical distancing will remain in effect.

In Phase 3B, KCLS will open some or all of its buildings with modified operations. Operating hours and access to services may vary by location and may continue to evolve according to public safety guidelines.

Full service will resume in Phase 4.

Until then, library programming will continue virtually, including online Summer Reading for all Ages, Story Times, book clubs, and more.

KCLS recognizes the equity issues inherent with an online-only library; one of the many reasons we are eager to eventually reopen our doors to allow access for all. It has been gratifying, however, to see that patrons who are able to connect with KCLS have done so in increasing numbers.

Compared to the same period last year, eCard usage is up 351%, eBook and audiobook checkouts are up 39% and requests for OverDrive digital-only cards are up 50%. In response, KCLS increased spending on digital collections by $350K for the months of March and April. Database usage has increased dramatically, including Mango Languages (491%), New York Times (330%), Wall Street Journal (258%) and Washington Post (205%).

King County residents have learned to be patient and we ask for your continued patience as we move through each phase of our return. We look forward to the day when we can offer full services again, but in the meantime stay well and stay tuned. Curbside to Go will be here soon!