As local businesses find creative ways to serve their communities, so do McHenry County’s libraries, with services including curbside pickup, virtual summer reading programs and online story times.
Loosened restrictions under Gov. JB Pritzker’s stay-at-home order have allowed libraries to expand patrons’ access to books, Wi-Fi and other community services.
“Whenever there’s an economic downturn, people tend to come back to libraries and that’s really what we’re here for,” said Leigh Ann Porsch, head of marketing and public relations at Huntley Area Public Library.
Public libraries including those in Woodstock, Crystal Lake, Algonquin and McHenry will offer curbside pickup for reserved material starting this month. Library employees wearing protective gear will hand-deliver clean and often quarantined material to patrons in the parking lot, Woodstock Public Library Director Nick Weber said.
“There’s spots marked out front for parking and there’s a different number to call when you arrive so we know that you’re here,” Weber said.
Woodstock began its curbside pickup services on Monday, while Algonquin and McHenry will start curbside delivery June 8. Crystal Lake will begin offering curbside service starting June 15.
Construction at Huntley’s library delayed employees’ plans to offer curbside pickup services, which they hope to begin in the coming weeks, Porsch said.
“Right now we’re not only combating preparing the library to be better equipped to handle COVID-19 ... we’re also battling construction,” Porsch said.
Due dates for Woodstock, McHenry, Huntley, Algonquin and Crystal Lake libraries have been pushed back until at least July 1, and patrons have not accrued late fees during the statewide shutdown. Anyone planning to return material to their local library should first call or check online, since return processes vary between locations.
The Crystal Lake Public Library, which as of Wednesday had 25,000 items checked out, currently is not accepting returns, Price said.
“We have to find a safe way to take those back in and store those for a few days, take them back in and quarantine them appropriately before anyone checks them back out again,” Price said.
In addition to expanding access to databases and free Wi-Fi, librarians have found a way to keep up with their book clubs and summer reading programs.
“It’s been a big deal for us to make sure we keep that going because there’s a lot of concern,” Crystal Lake Public Library public relations coordinator Stephanie Price said. “Kids sometimes get what they call summer slide, where they lose a little bit of what they learned during the summer months, but this year there’s something they’re calling the COVID slide.”
Algonquin, Crystal Lake, Woodstock, and McHenry Public Libraries all kicked off their summer reading programs Monday. Using technology such as the BeanStack app and website, readers track their progress digitally and earn rewards.
“It depends on your age group,” Algonquin Area Public Library marketing coordinator Devin de Lima said. “There’s a ton of different prizes … and you’re still able to do it physically as well.”
Other live programs including story times and craft demonstrations can be found on the libraries’ Facebook pages and YouTube channels.
“We have been doing some digital programs online, so we have story times with our own librarians reading, which is very cool because kids recognize them from coming to the library, and we’ve got staff members doing how-to crafts at home as well and video taping that,” Porsch said.
Further details about local libraries’ services through the summer can be found online at each location’s respective website.