The lines outside library doors and patrons’ big smiles said it all.
So glad to be back!
As of July 14, the King County Library System reached a long-awaited milestone: All 50 libraries are open for in-building service.
The pent-up demand saw 64,853 patrons visiting libraries between July 1 and July 16, according to door counts taken by staff.
KCLS had reopened many libraries for modified in-building service beginning in March, and continued Curbside to Go services at buildings still closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Following revised state public health guidelines in early July, KCLS received the green light to open all libraries to 100% capacity.
Residents who had waited over a year to enter some libraries, like Bellevue, Redmond, Federal Way, Renton and Library Connection @ Crossroads, wasted no time heading inside. They made beelines for book shelves, browsing and settling in chairs to read. Some gathered at computers, while others dropped off books, picked up holds, signed up for library cards and sought help from their local librarians.
“Of all the things we’ve missed during the pandemic, this library was the biggest,” said Danelle M., surveying the Choice Reads shelves at the Library Connection @ Crossroads.
“Having it closed has been tough; we usually swing by here three to four times a week. I couldn’t wait to be back.”
John S. agreed: “It’s been a long, dry spell without this neighborhood library.”
Redmond Library’s July 8 reopening celebration drew a morning crowd of about 40 people, who cheered and clapped as City of Redmond Mayor Angela Birney cut the ribbon.
“Hello everybody! We’re so excited to see you!” said Library Regional Manager Michelle D., welcoming patrons through the doors. The large library, closed to in-building visits since March 13, 2020, had served the public throughout the pandemic with one of KCLS’ busiest Curbside to Go services.
Mayor Birney commended the library staff and said, “I’m so excited this library is opening, and for all it has to offer. I know this library is used so much!”
Irene W., who loves audiobooks, was among the celebrants.
“The library closed right after I moved to Redmond, so this is my first time here¬,” she said. “I didn’t realize they had such a large collection. It’s amazing!”
Patrons kept streaming into the library all day, and the same enthusiasm greeted Bellevue Library staff, who were glad to resume face-to-face interactions. As with most KCLS library reopenings, masks are optional for vaccinated individuals; many patrons chose to wear them out of caution.
“It’s been so long, I don’t remember how to be in a library; should I be quiet?” half-joked Julie U., an early Bellevue arrival. “Curbside’s been great. Staff did a wonderful job so we could pick up books. They made it work and I’m grateful. I came to pick up cookbooks on hold, but now I can browse and get other book ideas.”
Julia L. settled in the children’s section with her daughters, ages four and seven. She said the family “used Curbside a lot, but there’s nothing like coming into the library.”
“It’s just so nice to be back; it’s safe, it’s educational,” she said, as her girls eagerly pulled books off the shelves. “You discover a lot more books by browsing at the library. My oldest daughter was especially excited about coming back.”
She added, “I’ve lived in the Middle East, Europe and Africa, and in the U.S. we are so lucky. Public libraries are amazing!”