HAPPY TO BE BACK — Sunnyside Librarian Marcelina Ortega leaves a bag of checked out books for a patron. Ortega expressed how the no contact procedure keeps librarians and patrons safe. She hoped to see Sunnyside reach Phase 3 so the library could have a limited capacity opening.

SUNNYSIDE — Since Yakima Health District (YHD) announced on Aug. 7 that Yakima Valley Libraries (YVL) can offer curbside pick-up for patrons to get their books, librarians have been hard at work contacting those who have had books on hold since March.

Programming and Marketing Librarian for YVL Krystal Corbray stated the libraries closed to the public effective on March 17 but staff came in on modified schedules in the two weeks following. The rise of cases in Yakima Valley resulted in staff placed on paid administrative leave.

“…many of them were assigned trainings and other projects while on leave, with a skeleton crew coming in alone to empty book returns, collect mail, check voicemail, etc. at their individual libraries,” Corbray communicated.

She added how patrons have expressed enthusiasm over the reopening of libraries, “We’ve seen a distinct up-tock in the number of materials that patrons are requesting for pick up, and we’re also receiving a lot interest from folks who are interested in updating old library accounts, or signing up for a library card for the first time.”

Sunnyside librarian for more than 30 years, Marcelina Ortega explained her project while libraries experienced closures has been the Phone a Story project. “I do the Spanish part of it. There’s four of us who do the Spanish part, so we take turns weekly,” she explained. Ortega has also been emptying the book-drop as patrons continued to return books and has been dusting shelves.

When the library opened for curbside pick-up of books, the veteran librarian recounted a visit from one of her regular patrons. An elderly gentleman, he didn’t make an appointment, but Ortega beamed, “He had his cane and came walking, he said ‘I just want to say I’ve missed you and I just want to say ‘hi.’”

Ortega explained patrons can either make their appointments or arrive and call the library on site. If there is an opening, Ortega can let them get their books.

Patrons then call the number listed outside the side door of the library, 509-379-3371, to inform the librarian they are on site. “They wait in their car,” the Sunnyside librarian emphasized, “…and I have a crate right here I set it out here (the door). If they’re an elderly person or a person with a disability, I’ve had them pop their trunk and I put it (their books) their trunk so there’s still no contact.”

The library will be able to open in a limited capacity once the county reaches Phase 3 in the Safe Start Washington Plan.

Elizabeth Sustaita can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 114 or email esustaita@sunnysidesun.com.

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