News You Can Use: What’s Happening at the Local Library?

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MINT HILL, NC – The local library looks a little different these days, but there are still many free services you can take advantage of as we continue to socially distance.

After a ten-week closure due to COVID-19, all Mecklenburg libraries began offering a limited menu of services on June 1.  Perhaps the most significant change as of June 1 is that cardholders can once again check out physical copies of books.  “At this time, you can place items on hold and pick them up,” says Mint Hill Librarian Melanie Lewis.  “You can do that online, or you can call us.  I know there are some folks who don’t really understand how to use the system, so you can always just call us, and we can place the books on hold that way.”

With after-hours book drops currently closed, library patrons must return borrowed materials during business hours
With after-hours book drops currently closed, library patrons must return borrowed materials during business hours.

Some patrons may feel uneasy about borrowing materials in the midst of a pandemic, but Lewis ensures that there is no need to clean or disinfect your borrowed books.  “We quarantine all returned items for 96 hours,” she explains, which is also why you might see a book you’ve returned still listed as “checked out” on your account. “We cover up the bin, we mark it, and then four days later is when we check-in.”  To make sure that returned books are properly quarantined, the library currently only accepts returns during business hours.

Those who participated in Summer Break, the library’s annual summer reading program, can visit the library now to pick up any prizes they have earned.  “That also looks very different compared to years past,” says Lewis.  “There’s a phone number you call to say I’ve completed, I’d like to pick up my prizes. They add your name to something, and you just come in here, give us your name and then you’ll pick up your prize, but you have to call first.”  The system does operate in real-time, so you can always call from outside of the library if you forget!  Summer Break participants are eligible to pick up prizes through September 26.

One useful service the library currently offers that many may not know about is wireless printing.  Customers have a variety of options for sending jobs directly to a printer at the library from their phones or personal computers.  “Let whoever is outside know that you sent a print job, and we’ll bring it out,” says Lewis.  “That is currently free of charge within a reasonable amount.”

In-person programs are still suspended, but the Mint Hill branch is currently offering a few virtual storytime options.  “Every Wednesday at 11:15, Ms. Donna does Family Storytime,” says Lewis.  “You have to register online, and they send you a Zoom link.  There’s also the monthly puppet show I do in the evening, which is always a Wednesday.”  In addition to these Mint Hill-specific options, Imaginon also streams live programs on Facebook.

Much of the library remains closed off during its first phase of reopening
Much of the library remains closed off during its first phase of reopening.

“All of those limited services that I mentioned are all that we’re calling our phase one,” says Lewis, noting that the library’s phases don’t necessarily match the state’s numbered phases.  “We know what phase two will look like, but we don’t know when it’s happening.  There will be some more open browsing, there will be a limited number of folks that can be in the library.  There will be computer use; I know that there’s a lot of folks anxiously awaiting that.”

But right now, the priority is getting people in and out quickly with minimal contact.  Just one person is allowed in at a time, and face coverings are required.  There is a small section of new adult fiction, nonfiction, DVDs, books on disc, and children’s book bundles for browsing.  To expedite transactions and keep them low-touch, they’re not currently accepting payment for fines in person.  Fines can be paid online, but patrons with outstanding fines aren’t barred from checking out materials like they were in the past.

The library has a small section of materials to browe but prefers patrons place holds online or by phone
The library has a small section of materials to browse but prefers patrons place holds online or by phone.

“If it’s something that can be answered via the phone, we would prefer a phone call,” says Lewis, explaining that many times people come in to pick up books and linger to request holds, ask about programming, or attempt to pay fines – all the things they would have done at the front desk before COVID.  “At this juncture, you can browse a little while I get your items, but we need to keep things moving.”

When I asked Lewis how faithful library patrons can best support them at this time, she’s unsure.  “Wear your masks,” she encourages, “and just keep using us.  Any way that you can actually let us know how we helped you during this time.  That’s the best way to support us – just to let us know what we’ve done to help you.”

The Mint Hill Library is open from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Thursday and from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Friday and Saturday.

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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her eight-year-old daughter Hannah and her six-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: