Story time

Library Assistant Tom Leo reads "The Polar Express" at the Highland Library's Very Merry Library party. 

The Highland Sam Racadio San Bernardino County Library and the Norman. F. Feldheym Central San Bernardino City Library were doing well with circulation in 2019 and into the first part of 2020 until COVID-19 struck the bookshelves.

Not the disease itself, but the fear and uncertainty for library patrons who chose not to visit in person and check out favorite books to take home.

All 32 branches of the county library system and the San Bernardino city library and its four branches were affected, having to close their doors

Patty Turley, interim county librarian, said the Highland Sam Racadio Library was among the libraries that had to close from mid March until June 2020.

After it reopened, the county libraries instituted the Library-to-Go system, where patrons could call in books to reserve and the library staff could package them, hands-free, and take them out to a table for pick-up.

They also saw an increase in digital books being checked out online, Turley said.

Turley said there also were wipes and gloves for patrons who wanted to use them because of COVID-19 protocols.

Turley said that items were quarantined for a period of time just by setting them aside until it was determined that they did not have to do that anymore.

Studies show that the materials don’t need to be cleaned or put in quarantine, said both library directors.

When the Highland library reopened, there were modifications, said Turley. There are fewer library hours and days per week that it is open. The good news is that there were no cuts in staff.

“They’re not back up to normal just yet,” she said.

The library did re-introduce storytime for children at the end of August 2021.

Ed Erjavec, director of the Feldheym Library since 2013, said library business was doing well before the pandemic struck.

The library had hit some lean budget years, from 2008 to 2013. Library hours were cut from 54 to 37 hours at the Feldheym Library and the four branches.

Then in March 2020, the libraries were closed until October of that year.

The library began offering pick up services for its patrons. Gradually, more programs were being added including Storytime for children in person in September 2021.

This year, the hours have increased by three hours, from 37 to 40. “We always hoped for more,” Erjavec said.

Opening the library doors again did not mean that the patrons were crowding the libraries, he said.

The city libraries also were seeing a reluctance of people coming out and using the services.

In October, the branch libraries were reduced to 16 hours each.

Erjavec said that the libraries were following COVID-19 protocols and the city was following Cal-Osha standards.

Masks are required inside the libraries.

Going back to the way it was before COVID-19 won’t be happening for the libraries.

“Business is starting to pick up,” Erjavec said, the first week of 2022. “But it’s not back to where it was before the pandemic.”

Feldheym Library has increased its hours to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. The library is closed on Friday and Sunday.

Erjavec also credits the city and City Manager Rob Field for extra funding so that the library could add more staff, from 10 full-time employees in 2013 to 31 employees in 2021.

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