CUMBERLAND - While libraries remain closed to the public to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the Cumberland Public Library continues to serve the community with a creative way for patrons to check-out books and other library materials: contactless pickup.

Library Director Celeste Dyer said the library, located on Diamond Hill Road, launched the contactless pickup option on Monday, the first step in the library's plans to reopen when it is safe to do so.

Dyer said public libraries across the state, including those in Woonsocket, Lincoln, Pawtucket and East Providence, are offering curbside/contactless pick up of library materials now that Rhode Island’s stay-at-home order is lifted and the state is in Phase I of its reopening plan.

Similar to the contactless curbside pickup service used by restaurants, coffee shops and some stores, the library allows patrons to contact the library to set up a pickup time for books, CDs, DVDs, and other items using the library’s online catalog.

Contactless means people won't have direct interaction with library staff when they come to pick up their items.

Dyer says the Cumberland Public Library has a limit of five items per library card. Once a request is made, library staff will notify the patron when the materials are ready for pickup. The items are placed in a plastic bag with the patron's name and left on a table in the library's foyer.

When patrons arrive to pickup, they are asked to call the front desk from their vehicles. The staff will tell the person whether the lobby is empty of anyone else picking up an order. If empty, they are invited to come in and pick up their order.

“Just give us a call when you get to the library and we will place your requests in the lobby. They will already be checked out to you,” says Dyer.

Statewide delivery has not been restored so requests are limited to items currently available, she said.

The service is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

So far, the contactless pickup option has been a big hit with library patrons.

“I just picked up my pre-ordered bag of books from the library. I'm so happy the staff is working to get books out to the public,” said one patron. “It's easy and efficient.”

Patrons can order their books, CD's and other materials by calling the library at (401) 333-2552 or by sending an email to requests@cumberlandlibrary.org. They can also use the online chat service by clicking on the Ask a Librarian tab at the bottom of every page on the library's website at www.cumberlandlibrary.org.

Dyer said due dates for all library items have been extended to June 1, but if patrons like, they can be place checked-out items in the library's book and media drops located outside near the main entrance to the library.

At this time, the library is not taking donations, she said.

To assist patrons, answer questions and help find digital resources for people doing research, the library is offering the Ask the Librarian live chat service during what would be its normal library hours when open to the public.

All you have to do is visit the library's website and on any page you will find the tab to start the chat conversation at the bottom of your browser window. The live chat service is available Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Ocean State Libraries (OSL), a consortium of Rhode Island’s 48 public libraries, is following recommendations from the CDC and the Rhode Island Department of Health. At present, all Rhode Island public libraries are closed and the statewide book delivery system has also been shut down.

Even though library doors are closed, libraries remain staffed and Rhode Islanders can still access more than 100,000 digital books and audiobooks in OSL’s eZone. In addition, storytimes, book clubs, technology workshops and more have moved online.

“This event underscores the essential roles that libraries play in the fabric of American society,” said OSL Executive Director Stephen Spohn. “Libraries empower learning, community and imagination. Today, libraries are reaching out to their communities with digital story times, digital book clubs and other digital programs to help communities to come together when the events of the day are keeping us all apart.”

Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7

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