Special message from the Chief Librarian
Keep updated on the Library’s response to Washington’s coronavirus outbreak.
From Chief Librarian Marcellus Turner
Updated March 18, 2020
We are at an unprecedented moment in our city, state, and country. First, I want to express my gratitude for your continued support and patience as we continue to evaluate and adjust our operations because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
As health officials and scientists have noted, we likely had 1,100 active COVID-19 infections as of March 10 in our region. If we do not act, there could be more than 25,000 cases by early April. As you likely heard, the State and County have issued a number of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, starting with a prohibition of events with more than 250 people, and most recently, a ban on gatherings of 50 people or more.
We have been working round-the-clock to assess what these rapidly changing guidances meant for the Library. After much discussion, and in accordance with public health guidance, The Seattle Public Library was called upon to support the City, County, and State’s efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. We all must do our part to keep our city and region healthy and combat the further spread of COVID-19.
Starting Friday, March 13, The Seattle Public Library closed all Library locations until at least April 13. We will be in continued contact with public health officials to evaluate our facilities beyond this timeline. This decision was made in partnership with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Library Board of Trustees, and please know we did not take the decision lightly.
It is clear that now is the time for strong and decisive action in order to protect the public we serve every day, as well as our staff and volunteers, who have been going above and beyond to continue providing service over the time since this public health crisis has taken hold.
Decisions like these do not come easy, as it means a temporary loss of access to the in-person learning services and gathering spaces the Library is known for providing to so many in our community. However, this does not mean a complete shutdown of Library services. We will continue to provide the many digital services you have come to love, which we’ve compiled on a new page called spl.org/StayingHome. You can find e-books and e-audiobooks ; streaming movies, TV and music services; free access to magazines and newspapers; and more. Our Ask Us reference question platform, which can be accessed online and or by phone, may experience some downtime as we work to enable our staff to do this work from home.
For those of you who have borrowed Library materials in your possession, do not fear the due date – we are extending loan periods during this time, so you do not need to return materials until we are back in full operation. (See the FAQs below for more details.) And remember, we are a fine-free library, thanks to your support of the Library Levy.
For those of you who interact with our wonderful staff, please note that we are looking at ways of utilizing their talents during this time, and the Library is evaluating all operations to ensure staff are appropriately compensated.
We will continue to communicate with you as our response to this outbreak evolves. We look forward to welcoming you back into our buildings when this virus runs its course and our communities begin to reconvene and rebuild a sense of normalcy. Until then, visit us at here at spl.org to take advantage of our great digital resources.
Marcellus Turner, Executive Director and Chief Librarian
FAQs about what the closure means for you
What, if any, Library services will be available during this closure?
We will continue to provide the many digital services you have come to love, such as e-books and e-audiobooks; streaming TV, movie and music services; digital subscriptions to newspapers and magazines; and more. Our Ask Us reference question platform, which can be accessed online and by phone, may experience some downtime as we work to enable our staff to do this work from home.
We have also just posted a new page that compiles digital services at spl.org/StayingHome.
Have due dates been extended?
Yes, due dates for all materials have been extended to April 13, when the Library is expected to reopen. We may consider adjusting due dates to be staggered after the Library’s reopening date to manage how many materials are returning to the system. We will post an update once we have that information.
Can I check out digital materials if my account was suspended at the time of the Library closure?
If an item you’ve checked out was already overdue before the Library closed, it is still overdue; those due dates were not extended. But overdue items will not age to “lost-item status,” meaning patrons will not be billed and will still be able to check out digital items. The policy of suspending accounts when an item is 14 days overdue has also been eliminated during the closure, so patrons with overdue items will still be able to access electronic resources during the closure.
Patrons with items in “lost” status at the time of the closure (one month or more overdue) will be blocked from accessing digital materials, but we are exploring options for restoring digital access for those patrons.
Can you extend check-out periods for e-books and e-audiobooks?
Unfortunately, we are not able to increase the number of available copies of digital materials at this time. Because digital materials are licensed on a cost-per-use basis and/or are more expensive then print materials, additional copies of e-books and e-audiobooks or increased limits on streaming services is not in the current budget. Our staff are watching trends closely, and we will continue to review our internal systems to determine if there is a way to make adjustments to digital lending parameters.
How can I stay up to date on Library operations during the closure and what’s available?
We will post updates on spl.org, as well as our social media channels on Facebook and Twitter. When there are major updates, such as anticipated re-openings or extended closures, we will reach out to patrons via email as well.
Can I contact the Library through chat, email or phone during the closure?
We hope to have these services available, but there may be a disruption in service as we prepare our reference staff to do this work remotely. We will keep you updated on the status of that service on spl.org and our social media channels.
Will patrons be able to pick up book holds during this closure?
At this time, we do not anticipate making material holds available during the closure. Patrons can keep materials that are currently checked out until we re-open. We will be sure to give you plenty of notice when we are ready to re-implement due dates.
What will happen to the holds I’ve already placed?
Holds you have placed in your account on physical materials will still be listed in your account, but will be suspended until we re-open. These holds will begin filling when we reopen, with a minimum of seven days to be picked up. You can still place (and retrieve) holds of digital materials. You can pick up holds that were on the shelves at the time of the closure when the Library re-opens.
Will patrons be able to return items to the Library during this closure?
No, all book drops will be inoperable during this closure, so please hold onto your materials for the time being. As noted, we have extended due dates until after the closure.
What will happen in Library buildings while they are closed?
We will be conducting deep cleanings of Library locations, keeping our buildings secure, and keeping our digital resources available to you. Some administrative work will also occur.
Will library parking garages remain open during this closure?
Most library parking garages will close for the duration of the Library’s closure. The Central Library parking garage is currently closed but may be open during part of the closure.
Will the Bookmobile or Books by Mail be available during the closure?
All mobile services, including Bookmobile activities, will be suspended during the closure. It is possible we may reactivate some of these services during the closure depending on staffing levels.
Important Health Agency Resources Regarding Coronavirus
Novel coronavirus fact sheets
If you have a question or need help, Ask Us or call 206-386-4636.