Camas Library opens its doors to community for first time in a year


Library staff introduces new book checkout app, in-house and digital safety platforms

The Camas Public Library reopened to the community March 15, the first time since the pandemic forced a statewide shutdown a year ago. Business hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Camas Public Library posts a “Welcome Back” sign to community members after a yearlong shutdown due to the pandemic. Business hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Photo by Dan Trujillo.
The Camas Public Library posts a “Welcome Back” sign to community members after a yearlong shutdown due to the pandemic. Business hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Photo by Dan Trujillo.

Staff members used the shutdown time to connect with readers through digital platforms and establish a curbside pickup station. Technology and Collections Manager Danielle Reynolds helped the library develop a new app that will allow customers to reserve and check out books from their mobile devices. The free app should be available by early April.

“Apps are something everybody has for everything now. It’s nice that we can follow along with other industry trends and bring it to our patrons,” Reynolds said. “Our app is not just for curbside pickup. It’s going to allow people to check out their books so they don’t even have to come in or use a machine. They can just scan the barcodes on the back of our books with the camera option on their phones.”

Face-to-face interaction has always been the library staff’s favorite method of service, and they are thankful to have that opportunity again.

“It’s nice to see all the people back in the building. It’s great seeing the smiles on their faces and the kids coming through,” said Director Connie Urquhart. “It feels like old times, but a little bit different.”

For starters, only 35 people can be in the building at one time. Urquhart said there are capacity counters at the door that alert the staff if the library is getting close to max capacity. There are also social distance measures in place to keep the building occupants safe, including touchless checkout and return stations.

“People have told us they are grateful we put those measures in place. We’ve had comments on Facebook that the library was clean, and that we had wipes for everybody and hand sanitizer and extra masks,” Urquhart said. “We are really trying to make people feel comfortable.”

A diagram of the new express checkout procedures at the Camas Public Library.
A diagram of the new express checkout procedures at the Camas Public Library.

Although the library hasn’t gotten close to max capacity in the first few weeks since reopening, Urquhart expects that will change as spring and summer activities return to Downtown Camas. Therefore, guests are encouraged to keep moving and not occupy the library space for long.

“You’re welcome to come in, browse and get your items, but not stay in the longue like we used to encourage,” Urquhart said. “Our community living room is closed. We hope it will be open again soon. For now, it’s standing room only. There aren’t any chairs in the aisles.”

The reading rooms are temporarily filled with books and archived items while the library renovates the basement after it was flooded by rainfall in September.

“We had that massive wildfire and all the smoke, and everybody was hoping it would rain and clear the air. And it did. It rained so hard and all the water came down the hill into our basement. It was at least 6 inches high, probably up to a foot in some places,” Urquhart said. “It’s not exactly the library that people remember, but we’re doing our best just to make sure that we serve the public’s needs and also get the basement back to where it was.”

The main menu screen of the Camas Public Library app, which should be available on mobile platforms by early April. Photo courtesy of Danielle Reynolds.
The main menu screen of the Camas Public Library app, which should be available on mobile platforms by early April. Photo courtesy of Danielle Reynolds.

The library did not have to lay any staff member off during the shutdown. According to  Urquhart, city officials utilized their networking skills by instituting a helpline. Library staff answered phone calls, helped residents find food and supplies from grocery stores, or just talked to elders feeling isolated from friends and family.

“We didn’t know what COVID was going to do and what our community’s needs would be. Mayor McDonnell had a great idea for us to serve as a helpline and establish a network of volunteers,”  Urquhart said.

“We link people to resources and information all the time so it wasn’t a huge leap for us to connect with people in need and point them in the right direction to get the help they needed,” Reynolds added.

“It reinforced our mission statement, which is to serve the community. And it brought us closer together as a team,”  Urquhart said. “It showed us that if we just keep that focus on the people, then we really can’t go wrong.”

Urquhart looks forward to the return of the Camas Farmers Market in May, and hopefully, Camas Days in July. The library reopening is one step closer to the city getting back to life as normal.

“The magic of Camas is that the community comes together,”  Urquhart said. “The community has been so spread apart this year, and it has been challenging, but I still see the resiliency and the connectedness of Camas in little ways. I have every belief that we will come back together even stronger.”

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About The Author

Dan Trujillo brings 20 years of experience to ClarkCountyToday.com. He worked part-time at The Columbian Newspaper while earning a Bachelor of Arts in English from Washington State University Vancouver. He covered high school sports at the Camas-Washougal Post-Record for 12 years, and earned a Washington Newspapers Publishers Association Sports Writer of the Year award in 2017. Dan also covered community news, schools and sports for The Reflector Newspaper in 2018. He enjoys reading, writing, photography, hiking, and travelling with his wife Dr. Marlena Trujillo, a theatre educator.

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