It’s Not the Oldest…It’s Not the Biggest…But It Is The World’s Greatest…

My library is not the oldest – that’s in Morocco:

And my library is not the biggest – that’s in Washington DC:

But my library is the world’s greatest, most recently because of…

That’s right!  Home delivery of library materials…

I am an avid reader and movie watcher, and for years my library has been my main source for books and DVDs.  If the items I wanted were on loan to another customer, I’d just put the items on hold, the library would email me as each item became available, and I’d pick it up.  My library also utilizes a statewide loan system, so if my library didn’t have the item, I could request it from another library.

It all worked so wonderfully well, and then…

The pandemic closed my library in mid-March 2020, and that meant no more books.  No more DVDs.  Right?

The amazing library team had anticipated closing, and already had a system in place to start home deliveries the very next day.

And delivering not just books, but DVDs, and books and music on CDs.

I can’t stress the importance of that enough:  the very next day.

Instead of people coming to the library – the library came to them.

To the best of anyone’s knowledge, out of the 80 or so main libraries, branches, and county libraries in San Diego county, my library is the ONLY one providing this service.

And talk about service!

Between mid-March 2020 and the end of the year, the library team had delivered more than 20,000 items to library cardholder residents.

All the more remarkable, considering how labor- and driving-intensive this service is.  As one librarian put it,

“We pull the holds each day, check them in to generate a slip of paper with the customer’s name, clean the materials, and then group them alphabetically.  The next morning, the books are checked out and bagged.  We label, then number the bags based on routes generated by an app for the most efficient delivery around the city. 

“Then, two or three of us deliver to 25 to 55 households each, often with multiple bags or boxes for a single household, while back at the library, two or three of us pull more on-hold items from as many as 19 double-sided pages for the next day’s deliveries.”

As the pandemic wore on, the library team began noticing patterns for customer requests:  how to start up a business and other how-to books; financial independence books; books about horses, outer space, backyard chicken-raising, and cookbooks; books on racism and African American history; and classics, both books and movies.

And, of course, children’s books.  Said the librarian,

“The largest number of books that went out were consistently children’s books; some households would place holds for dozens of books for their kids.  One customer told me that her kids behaved as if they had won the lottery when their books arrived!”

That emotion wasn’t limited to kids – in 2020 the library delivered more than 60 books and DVDs to my home, and whether the bag held one item or five, every time felt like Christmastime.

The pandemic went on, but my library was able to reopen a few months ago for limited in-person service.  I wondered if home deliveries would be discontinued now that people could come into the library, grab and go.

Happily, the answer is:

The library team is still pulling, checking, cleaning, grouping, bagging, numbering, and delivering, and every Tuesday at my house…

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