Snoqualmie Library. File photo

Snoqualmie Library. File photo

Libraries take first steps towards reopening

Curbside service and book returns are returning in the coming weeks.

Last June, King County libraries were the focal point of the culture wars, as protesters on both sides rallied for and against Drag Queen Story Hours. But this year the scene is much different, as staff work to prepare to reopen after coronavirus shutdowns.

Libraries were shuttered in mid-March as COVID-19 cases spiked across the state. The county was approved to enter Phase 2 on June 19, and more services will soon be available, said Julie Acteson, spokesperson for the King County Library System.

“It is important that we start these services to the public,” Acteson said.

Starting on June 23, several book drop locations will reopen. These will let people return books. On July 1, curbside services should return to allow people with holds on materials to pick them up.

The libraries themselves will remain closed to the public until the county enters Phase 3. That’s when libraries will be opened with limited hours and services. Museums also will be allowed to reopen.

The closure has been unprecedented for the library system, which was started during World War II.

During the closure, staff has been conducting training and hosting digital story times and online programming, Acteson said. Some of these programs have seen triple-digit increases in attendance.

“That’s been incredibly positive, and our staff have been super creative in how they are delivering their services,” she said.

Michele Drovdahl is the library regional manager for most locations on the Eastside. She said they’re looking at ways to bring people safely back to the libraries.

For locations like North Bend, which have large outdoor areas, they could start doing story times while safely practicing social distancing measures.

“We are working on it, so if we can do it, we’ll be ready to go,” she said. “Our children’s librarians are really excited.”

The importance of libraries goes beyond providing reading materials for many people. It provides a vital link to the internet for people who don’t otherwise have access.

Several libraries will be getting a WiFi upgrade for their buildings, boosting the signal beyond the parking lots. A list for locations that could receive it wasn’t immediately available, but Fall City and North Bend were contenders.

They’re also increasing the budget for audio and ebooks. At the beginning of the pandemic, the library system added more than $350,000 to its digital budget.

In 2018, more than 4.8 million digital ebooks were checked out from King County libraries. That year, the library system had the most digital books checked out in the country, and third in the world.

Last year, the library system came in second only behind the Los Angeles Public Library.

The coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated that trend.

But, like ovens, Drovdahl thinks physical books will stick around.

“My example all the time is remember when microwaves were first introduced, we would never use our oven ever again. But now we use our microwaves and our ovens,” she said. “Libraries are looking to become a community place, and we want to be community online, and I think we want to be a part of the community in person too.”


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@valleyrecord.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.valleyrecord.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

King County 2020 unemployment numbers. Source: Washington State Employment Security Department
Boeing, coronavirus likely to impact King County economy

Unemployment remained high in September.

File photo
A 212-unit development is slated for the Dahlgren property, more commonly known as the “mule pasture.”
North Bend’s water war heats up as construction is set to begin

Who gets to supply water to a 212-unit housing complex is at the heart of the skirmish.

Homeless man lying on the bench. File photo
Cities opting out of county homelessness tax took $17 million with them

It leaves the county with roughly $50 million a year to bond against.

In this February 2020 photo, flood waters inundate Carnation and close Tolt Hill Road. File photo
Flood projects in the valley

Highlights from the list of improvements.

Some cool deer near Preston on Oct. 6. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
News around the Valley: Ballots, oil, weather, water

Voters in the Snoqualmie Valley should have received their ballots for the election.

Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
A construction crew works on the site of the new Snoqualmie Valley Athletic Center in North Bend on Oct. 6. Construction began in September on the multi-field sports complex. It is expected to be completed in May 2021, and provide space for four Little League baseball fields, or two soccer, football or lacrosse fields. The baseball fields will be able to accommodate high school, junior league and softball teams. In other athletics news, the Sno-King Snoqualmie ice hockey rink is also hosting grand opening on Oct. 18.
News around the valley: Athletic center construction, Highway 18 death, candidate forum

Wildfire smoke kills hundreds of WA residents A recent report by the… Continue reading

File photo
State Supreme Court strikes down $30 car-tab initiative

Justices unanimously agreed that voter-approved Initiative 976 is unconstitutional.

(Stock photo)
Rent, utilities moratorium extended

They were extended through Dec. 31.

Andy Hobbs / staff photo
Valley merchants and the cities of North Bend, Snoqualmie and Fall City are co-hosting a Quarantine-O-Ween for Halloween festivities this year. Pictured left to right: Earl Bell, Board President, SnoValley Chamber of Commerce; Rachelle Armstrong, owner of The Bindlestick coffee shop in downtown Snoqualmie; and Kelly Coughlin, director of the SnoValley Chamber.
Halloween trek comes to the valley

Local businesses and cities will be holding a scavenger hunt and candy pick up on Halloween.

Most Read