The children’s section at the Morro Bay Library is ready for youngsters to start their adventures in reading.

Albert Einstein said, “The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” The San Luis Obispo County Library system covers 3,000 square miles and has 14 locations to keep close at hand, and, as of June 22, they will all be open for the first time following the pandemic.
As a reminder, all libraries were closed from March 2020 to July 2020 after which doors were opened for browsing at Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Cambria, Los Osos, Morro Bay, Nipomo, and San Luis Obispo libraries.

As public servants, librarians took a disaster service worker oath promising to respond in times of need thus, by January 2021, most of the staff had been assigned to work for the County, so book access switched to sidewalk service at most of those locations while Cambria, Los Osos, and Nipomo temporarily closed.

Throughout the pandemic there was a push to make people aware of the opportunity to dive into the digital book and program world available at OverDrive/Libby, cloudLibrary, Hoopla, Kanopy, and Enki.

“We generally see a steady 20 percent increase in digital use annually,” said Erica Thatcher, library engagement and marketing coordinator. “But, we did see a big spike in e-book checkouts between March and July of 2020 when we were closed. It seems to be leveling off, though. A lot of people are still using eBooks, but we find that folks like to use both print and digital.”

Attendance for the library’s online book discussion groups, author talks, and parenting classes really exceeded expectations during the pandemic and online homework help sessions increased.

Librarian Diana Hammerlund is part of the crew at the Los Osos Library welcoming the community back to the books.

“We expect to continue meeting people where they are with online programs, but we’d like to know more about what folks are interested in,” Thatcher said. “We’ll be looking for more feedback when we find out from the State and County what we are allowed to offer in-person.”
Considering 2020 was a blur for many book fans, there are likely quite a few who want to catch up on what they missed in the publishing world and the library system has them covered.

“We continued to order books during all of the closures and service changes, said Thatcher. “It was a weird time for publishing, though: A lot of books’ release dates got changed, so book availability was inconsistent. But during sidewalk service, folks were able to discover new titles in our online catalog at SLOLibrary.org and place holds on them for pickup. Now that our doors are open, patrons can discover books from 2020 and 2021 on our ‘New’ shelves.”

Reading tastes did change a bit over the last year-plus. Thatcher said that the cookery category, mostly cookbooks, used to be at the top of the adult, nonfiction list of material checked out.

“Now medicine (health) is number one, United States (politics) is number two, and cookery is number three, according to our collections statistics software,” she said. “Sociology and psychology seem to be more popular, too.”
On June 22, the seven smallest branches, Creston, Cayucos, Oceano, San Miguel, Santa Margarita, Shandon and Shell Beach, which have been closed since early 2020, will open their doors.

Not everything will be as it was — the plethora of programs offered to patrons have not yet returned.
“We’re still waiting for guidance from the State and County on inside and outside gatherings,” Thatcher said. To find out what programs are available, check out the SLOLibrary.org events calendar.

There are still two ways to get lost in the pages of a book. To check out digital and physical versions of reading material requires a library card. An e-card allows patrons to access all downloadable services, including ebooks, digital magazines, music, movie/TV services, and digital services like CreativeBug and LinkedIn Learning. A classic card allows patrons to check out books at the physical library.
To get a permanent library card, visit any of the 14 libraries in-person. To get a temporary E-card number, go to SLOLibrary.org and look for the Library Card button under the “About” tab.

Thatcher said that there wouldn’t be any shindigs signaling the big reopening because there wasn’t time to plan with most of the staff just returning to the stacks. They do have some mobile learning and library beautification projects planned toward toward the end of the year.