East Lansing Public Library to Purchase Outdoor Lockers for Contactless Pickup, Making Plans for Reopening

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Gary Caldwell for ELi

The front entrance of the East Lansing Public Library

The East Lansing Public Library Board of Trustees met last Friday to discuss plans for reopening the library’s doors to patrons and investing in lockers and a delivery van to help with contactless pickup and delivery.

While ELPL is eager to assist East Lansing residents, visitors should not expect previous norms to prevail upon reopening. Instead, patron time in the library will be limited and furniture moved to dissuade leisurely hangouts.

Lockers and Other Investments

Since closing its doors in March for the public health emergency, ELPL leaders have been considering purchasing outdoor self-serve lockers, which would permit patrons 24/7 access to requested items with no physical interaction with library staff.

On May 26, East Lansing’s City Council gave the go-ahead to spend $45,000 to purchase a D-Tech International HoldIT locker kiosk. Of the lockers considered by ELPL, D-Tech’s was the only that was compatible with ELPL’s Integrated Library System and could withstand the elements outdoors.

Each patron could use up to two lockers with his or her card. After requesting materials, the patron would be assigned a locker that could hold up to 15 items. 

The Friends of the East Lansing Public Library (FOELPL) pledged $25,000 to help defray the cost. FOELPL President Maureen McCabe Power said the group’s funds now stand at $45,000, but members are eager to pursue new fundraising avenues.

On June 10, FOELPL will be holding a fundraiser with Noodles and Company in downtown East Lansing. The restaurant will donate 50 percent of all purchases made between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. to FOELPL.

The Board of Trustees believes the investment in the lockers is worth it. Access to 24/7 lockers can facilitate pickups for patrons who cannot visit the library during scheduled hours of operation due to work schedules or other commitments. 

According to budget updates provided at last Friday’s meeting, the library is facing expenses for a number of capital projects. The library building’s roof needs to be repaired in one section due to leaks, and the HVAC system must also be repaired or replaced since the two boilers are no longer working.

ELPL is also in the process of purchasing a Mercedes Sprinter van to facilitate deliveries of library materials, something that may become increasingly important should a second wave of the pandemic hit in fall or winter.

New Visiting Policies

During last Friday’s meeting, the Board of Trustees approved a Patron Code of Conduct to address public health concerns related to the pandemic. 

The new code is stricter, limiting capacity and patron time in the library and requiring patrons over five years of age to wear a mask unless a patron is physically unable to do so.

The Trustees acknowledged the difficulties of enforcing a face mask policy. While library employees can tell patrons that they cannot enter without a mask, the executive order passed by Governor Whitmer makes no provisions for police intervening should the policy be violated.

Shelley said she is reluctant to have employees put themselves in harm’s way should a patron become confrontational.

Visitors to the library should also expect to spend a limited time inside, since capacity will be restricted. The Trustees have not decided how the system will work, but they seem to anticipate allowing patrons 30 minutes inside.

Once inside the library, patrons will not have access to all stack aisles since the through-radius is only three feet. Library staff will retrieve items for patrons from these shelves. In order to facilitate quick trips, the staff will also create book bundles that will contain books of the same genre or by the same author.

Much of the library’s furniture will be held in storage – mostly in closed reading rooms – and signage will encourage social distancing.

Remote Services

Even while closed, ELPL is expanding its holdings. It has added Acorn TV, World Book online, and additional magazine subscriptions through Flipster. Library-card holders can currently access these online. (If you do not have a library card, library staff can issue you one remotely.)

Upon return, patrons can expect to see best sellers on the shelves, and they will now be able to check out WiFi hotspots.

The One Book, One Community event will look different this year since an in-person event would be difficult. The library plans to hold an online series that will feature Michigan authors.

In the meantime, residents can tune into the library’s online programming. Recently, MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo read at Storytime, drawing in 17,000 viewers. Other local celebrities, including Mayor Ruth Beier, have agreed to read stories in the future.

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