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@issaquahreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.issaquahreporter.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

Sightseers at a Snoqualmie Falls viewpoint adjacent to the Salish Lodge & Spa on Feb. 19, 2020. Natalie DeFord/staff photo
25 COVID cases linked to Salish Lodge

Pubic Health is urging anyone who visited the lodge to monitor for symptoms or get tested.

The nose of the 500th 787 Dreamliner at the assembly plant in Everett on Sept. 21, 2016. (Kevin Clark / Herald, file)
Report: Boeing will end 787 Dreamliner production in Everett

Boeing declined comment on a Wall Street Journal story saying the passenger jet’s assembly will move to South Carolina.

Stock photo
5th Legislative District: Ramos, Moninski talk business and economy

The candidates squared off at an Issaquah Chamber of Commerce forum.

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Surge in consumer spending eases state budget challenges

A jump in tax collections cuts a projected $9 billion shortfall in half, acccording to new forecast.

Issaquah plans to bring back some in-person learning

Kindergarten and first grade could return for some in-person learning by Oct. 15

High speed rail and hub cities explored in Cascadia Corridor study

A new paper outlines a potential plan for the region.

Photo courtesy of Mayor Mary Lou Pauly.
Mayor writes letter for Issaquah residents—100 years from now

The letter describes life in a pandemic, and the plans for future Issaquah

Should state cover school bus costs if there are no riders?

With funding tied to getting students to school, districts are uncertain how much money they’ll receive.

Image courtesy of the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
Massive wildfires incinerate WA

All state Department of Natural Resources lands were closed to recreational activities on Sept. 8.

Screenshot of the air quality monitor at 11 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 8. Courtesy Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
King County faces unhealthy air quality due to wildfire smoke

Weather monitors recommend people limit time outdoors, especially children, seniors and those with heart or lung disease.

Amazon adds more office space to Bellevue, now as many new jobs as HQ2

The office space for an additional 10,000 jobs, making it 25,000 coming to downtown, is expected to complete in 2023.