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Chapel Hill Public Library pilots bookmobile program, adapts service due to pandemic


Chapel Hill Public Library is closed to the public due to COVID-19 and only operates using a drive-thru pick-up and drop-off system, as pictured here on Sept. 1, 2020.

The Chapel Hill Public Library, like many institutions, has found itself adapting to a new normal as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. 

The library has transitioned to allowing patrons to check out materials through its ‘park and pick up’ program. Here's how it works:

  • Patrons can browse catalogs and place holds on items online. Once ready, they can call the library at 919-932-2942 and schedule a time to come by and pick them up. 
  • Books can be dropped off anytime.
  • When materials are returned, they are sanitized and quarantined for 24 hours to prevent the spread of illness, said the library's Assistant Director Meeghan Rosen.
  • This service is not available on Wednesdays and Sundays, but is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m on all other days, and goes until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays. All that is needed is a library card, which can be acquired online

Some regulars like Chapel Hill resident Dane Schuckman miss being able to physically be in the building, something Schuckman said he especially enjoyed doing with his young son. 

“Just being surrounded by all those books and other materials is like a big, warm, smart brain hug,” he said. “And now, when we can't go into the building, the online resources and social media activities provide enrichment.”

Rosen said the library has been looking for ways to keep its activities going during the pandemic. 

She said one new mobile library initiative to provide these services is its bookmobile program, currently being piloted at Tar Heel Mobile Home Park.

The library acquired the vehicle several years ago through the state library system and set it up at events in the Chapel Hill area. Now, she said the vehicle is bringing the library to communities that may not be able to engage with the library at its physical location. 

Rachel Wood is a UNC student and library experiences assistant working on the project. 

“It’s been great to be able to interact with people face to face since I think we all feel so isolated during COVID,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to feel I’m getting people what they need or something that helps them get through quarantine.”

Rosen said the library's priority during this time is providing resources to residents. 

“We’ve taken an intentional approach to redesigning those core services that people look to us to provide,” she said. “(We’re) looking hard at how we can provide access to technology for people, in support of at home schooling and adults working from home.”


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