Wi-Fi, laptops, gloves & gowns

JeffCo Library uses grants to aid internet access, support curbside services, protect staff

Luciano Marano lmarano@ptleader.com
Posted 8/14/20

Timing-wise, the onset of the pandemic worked out as well as it could have for the Jefferson County Library.

Not that anyone is particularly happy about it, mind you. But, still, things could …

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Wi-Fi, laptops, gloves & gowns

JeffCo Library uses grants to aid internet access, support curbside services, protect staff

Posted

Timing-wise, the onset of the pandemic worked out as well as it could have for the Jefferson County Library.

Not that anyone is particularly happy about it, mind you. But, still, things could have been worse.

The library’s being awarded several grants, applied for prior to the rise of COVID but received in the midst of the turmoil, allowed them to provide ample protective equipment for staff, thus enabling fairly seamless curbside service, and also the recent acquisition of portable Wi-Fi hotspots — set to be made available for patrons to check out imminently — to grant high-speed internet access in a time when such connectivity is more crucial than ever.

In late July, the Washington State Library announced Jefferson County Library was selected to receive a $1,500 CARES grant. Provided by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill signed into law by President Donald Trump in March in response to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the funding will be used to purchase additional protective equipment such as masks, gowns, gloves, and thermometers, according to library officials.

They already had some such equipment, of course, but as work continued behind the scenes at the library, an ample stock became more important.

“It really, I think, allowed them to do everything they could do, feeling a little more relaxed,” said Brwyn Griffin, longtime Jefferson County Library administrative services manager. “It’s quite uncomfortable wearing a mask and gloves all day long, but I do think there was an element of protection that made [staff] feel like they didn’t have to worry all the time. Because it is a time of high anxiety.”

Returned items are taken from the drop box by properly attired staff and quarantined, Griffin said, for 96 hours to ensure cleanliness before materials are released to the next patron.

“Our staff are quite well-protected,” she said. “They’re working all day long in gloves and masks. When they handle materials that are coming directly to the library and haven’t been in quarantine — because we’re quarantining all our materials for 96 hours — our pages, when they empty the book drop, wear plastic raincoats.”

Even before that grant, however, the library had received funding to enable their work supporting the Census 2020 efforts; $2,000 came from American Library Association and $1,139 from the Washington Office of Financial Management.

“They were encouraging event-driven, awareness-type programs,” Griffin said. “Of course, COVID changed a lot of what we were going to do, because we had planned [gatherings] and had purchased laptops so that we could provide stations for people who didn’t have connectivity to come in and do the online registration for the Census.”

The library, like so many other institutions and businesses, was suddenly thrown for a loop.

“We were kind of gearing up for all the events in March and early April and then we closed the library, I think it was the 13th of March or something like that, and had to rethink what we were doing,” Griffin said. “And then the CARES money became an option we could apply for.”

The JeffCo Library is also set to receive an additional $4,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to purchase 10 Wi-Fi hotspots that will be available to the public.

In March, Congress provided the federal agency a total of $50 million in the CARES Act to distribute to states and territories. It was, according to IMLS Director Crosby Kemper III, perhaps a less obvious, though very important, area of need in trying times.

“COVID-19 has not only created a public health emergency, but it has also created a deep need for trusted community information, education, and connection that our libraries and museums are designed to provide,” he said. “Access to and use of all kinds of health, job, government, educational, and community resources are necessary to weathering the current situation, beginning efforts to reopen, and sustaining our institutions.”

Currently, the library (located at 620 Cedar Ave. in Port Hadlock, at the intersection of Ness Corner Road and Cedar Avenue, about 7 miles south of Port Townsend) is offering contactless pickup and walk-up/bike-up services from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.

The Bookmobile is also making regular rounds; visit www.jclibrary.info for a complete schedule.

Additionally, while the library itself remains closed to the public, free Wi-Fi is being made available 24/7 in the parking lot. No password is required.

In an Aug. 4 update, JeffCo Library Director Tamara R. Meredith advertised the new wireless printing service and laptop availability.

“The library has traditionally offered five free printed pages per day to its computer users,” she wrote. “You can now use our remote wireless printing service to access this benefit — just email your file and pick up your prints when they are ready.

“In early August,” she added, “we will begin offering laptop checkout services at the library. Patrons will be able to reserve a laptop for a specific time and check it out at our curbside pickup. Laptops must stay connected to our library’s wireless network to function, so use will be restricted to the library grounds.”

Each laptop will be fully sanitized between uses.

“We appreciate all of the work happening in Jefferson County to flatten the curve, and we look forward to seeing you in our building or on our Bookmobile in the near future,” Meredith wrote. “Once Jefferson County has successfully advanced to Phase 3 and public libraries have been provided guidance for reopening, we look forward to welcoming you back into our building and onto our Bookmobile.”

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