Libraries and stores in town have new restrictions in place and services available to ensure readers remain safe in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Residents are no longer allowed inside buildings in the Bryan-College Station Public Library System or Half Price Books, but they both launched curbside options this week. Texas A&M University has closed three of its libraries to the public until May 8 and stopped loaning physical items such as books, videos, laptops and other equipment. A&M library staff is still available, according to its website, via online and phone connections. 

Carnegie History Center, Clara B. Mounce Public Library and Larry J. Ringer Library have staff available by phone from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and permit curbside pickup at Mounce and Ringer during the same hours through March 31. Library system director Beatrice Saba said she and her staff are doing all they can to ensure they are safely providing information to the public.

“Our role is to be involved in the community and connect with the issues of the community and the citizens,” Saba said. “It’s an opportunity for libraries to be able to engage and strengthen what we provide in terms of service and a way for us to connect with our patrons and provide all the resources that we’ve been doing, whether it’s through the traditional or now the untraditional.”

Books are quarantined for 72 hours after they are returned to the library and sanitized as well before going back on shelves. Holds for pickup can be made online or by phone. No late fees will accrue during the system’s closed period. 

Book donations are not being accepted, and all programs and events have been canceled through March 31. Staff is working to create videos that teach people how to place a hold on items or access electronic resources, as well as streaming for programming like story time and puppet shows. 

People looking to purchase books can call Half Price Books’ College Station location at 696-2325. Staff will look for items that customers request and deliver them to each person’s car when they arrive to pick items up. Credit card payments are accepted over the phone. The service is available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. The store is not purchasing merchandise from the public. 

A&M’s Policy Sciences & Economics Library, Medical Sciences Library and Cushing Memorial Library are closed to the public. Sterling C. Evans Library and the Business Library & Collaboration Commons have changed their hours and closed certain services such as group and individual study rooms. A&M is waiving fees and fines from March 16 through May 8. Hours have changed and can be viewed at library.tamu.edu/about/hours.

Saba took up the library system director role at the start of this month. She is a native of Ghana, West Africa, and grew up in New York City. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and International Business from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, and a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

While her more than two decades of public library experience has never included anything quite like contending with a global pandemic, Saba said being a librarian during 9/11 opened her eyes to how much people need libraries, especially in times of hardship. 

“We’re here as a support as well as a resource for the community,” Saba said. “I think that’s important, especially now.”

Visit bcslibrary.org for the system’s full list of online resources, including ebooks, audiobooks, video streaming, library catalogues to put a hold on books and more. Call 209-5630 to reach the Carnegie History Center, where staff members are available to answer questions. Call 209-5600 for Mounce Library and 764-3416 for Ringer.

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