Edmonton Public Library opens 3 branches for pickups, some laid-off staff recalled

Edmonton Public Library has announced the next step in its reopening plan with new options that will allow people to check out physical books again.

Three locations in the city will reopen in a limited capacity to offer “Library Express Checkout,” a new service that will allow people to pick books ahead of time online and then stop by the select branches to get their books.

Edmonton Public Library’s Clareview, Lois Hole and Mill Woods branches will offer the service, as well as other borrowing options like “Hits-to-Go” and a Staff Picks collection. While people can also stop by to get books from the two non-hold borrowing options, lingering will not be allowed and there will be no computer use or new card signup.

Around 125 employees, or about 25 per cent of those who were laid off in March, have been recalled to work due to the launch of the express checkout program.

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“We know our customers have been eagerly waiting for EPL to open and to borrow new physical materials,” Pilar Martinez, the CEO of EPL, said. “Library Express Checkout is a new way for customers to safely return to our branches and begin to borrow physical materials again.”

The service launches on June 30, for current holds. New book holds can be selected by library users on July 6, which can then be picked up at one of the three locations when they are available.

The library hopes to expand the express checkout service to other locations in the next few weeks, according to a news release.

Read more: Edmonton Public Library heads to court over cannabis store distance

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The number of customers who can go into the three locations to get holds will be limited, and physical distancing measures will be in place.

While EPL announced in early June that it was ending late fees, customers can now return their library books through the 24-hour chutes outside the three express locations.

Returned items will be quarantined by library staff for 72 hours to avoid any COVID-19 concerns. EPL staff confirmed to Global News that 125 of those who faced layoffs will be recalled to work related to the express program.

Edmonton Public Library releases top 2019 checkouts for eBooks and eAudiobooks
Edmonton Public Library releases top 2019 checkouts for eBooks and eAudiobooks

Earlier in June, EPL also launched a “Library Takeout” option, which is similar to the express system, but in that case customers were selected randomly by lottery as to who would get their holds.  The takeout option is available at more locations, but not on-demand like the express option.

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All 21 EPL branches were closed on March 15 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While libraries were permitted to open in Stage 2 of the provincial relaunch, EPL had previously said it would not be reopening at that time.

Read more: Edmonton lays off over 2,000 staff at city rec centres, public libraries due to COVID-19

Nearly 500 library employees were temporarily laid off when the branches initially closed.

489 Edmonton Public Library employees laid off
489 Edmonton Public Library employees laid off

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