Mountain Iron library goes to curbside

Mountain Iron Head Librarian Anna Amundson wears a mask and gloves as she clean each returned item to the library Friday afternoon. Amundson set up a system to ensure everything going out of the library is safe for use. The library will begin offering curbside pickup starting on Monday.

MOUNTAIN IRON — Anna Amundson has heard from many individuals lately relaying that during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine they have “read every book they have in their house and need something new.”

The Mountain Iron Public Library is now ready “to jump in” to help, said Amundson, library director and special events coordinator for the City of Mountain Iron.

The library will begin non-contact curbside pick-up Monday.

It is the only library so far in the Quad Cities of Virginia, Eveleth, Gilbert and Mountain Iron — and one of only ones on the Iron Range — to begin the curbside checkout of books and materials.

Libraries have been shuttered since Minnesota Gov. Tim Waltz issued a stay-at-home order in March and closed non-essential businesses to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Amundson has been working on a plan for many weeks, with the Mountain Iron City Council’s support, to launch a curbside library service. She decided to begin it after the governor Thursday announced that while Stay-at-Home is extended to May 18, retail and other non-critical businesses can operate curbside transactions.

Curbside pick-up at the Mountain Iron library is available to anyone who has an Arrowhead Library System library card. Up to 10 items can be checked-out per card, including books, audio books, DVDs and magazines.

The service will be available 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Those interested can call the library at (218) 735-8625; email Amundson at anna.amundson@alsib.info; or message the library’s Facebook page. To search the offering online, go to the Mountain Iron library’s catalog on the ALS website or use the link: https://arrowhead.ent.sirsi.net/client/en_US/Mountain_Iron.

“We will respond and set up a time for pick-up,” Amundson said.

Patrons can request books by name or give a general idea of what they are looking for, and Amundson will put together a bundle of recommended reading items.

New books will be arriving, and all materials are first come, first served, she said.

Books tend to “quiet the brain down verses screen time,” and provide a calmer diversion, noted the library director. “People are honoring guidelines and staying at home,” she said, which means they are also becoming overwhelmed with screen time for work, school and leisure.

The library also has books included in the Accelerated Reader program for K-12 students, who are currently completing AR tests online.

Since announcing the curbside program on the library’s Facebook page Thursday, orders have been coming in by the dozens, Amundson said. Pick-up slots are already filled through 12:45 p.m. Monday, she said Friday.

The Mountain Iron Public Library is also one of the only libraries in the area since March’s COVID-19 business closures to accept books at it book drop.

Early on, the library “had a procedure in place” to quarantine the books, following Minnesota Department of Education pandemic guidelines.

Books and materials will continue to go through the seven-day quarantine procedure when returned. They spend three days sitting, untouched, in a “hot zone,” before being cleaned with disinfectant wipes, then spend another four days in a “cold zone,” before being returned to the shelves, Amundson explained. Inside pages are lightly misted with disinfectant spray.

Studies have shown that the coronavirus can remain on porous surfaces for two to three days, she said. The seven-day quarantine is “extra precautions.”

The Mountain Iron library currently has tubs of disinfected books from other libraries waiting to be returned when currier services are ramped up, Amundson said.

While all originally planned reading events for the summer have been cancelled through August, the library will hold an online summer reading program for kids via READsquared.

Participants can log on to the website or access the program on an app. The program offers drawings for prizes based on minutes read, Amundson said.

The library has offered other forms of entertainment during the pandemic, including “Watch a Book” videos on its Facebook page featuring famous people reading children’s stories. Actor Henry Winkler recently read the children’s book, “The Goblin and the Empty Chair,” on a highly viewed video, Amundson said.

The library has also been sharing the Laurentian Environmental Center’s nature-related videos, ranging from lessons on how to compost to northern Minnesota mammals.

Amundson said the library is collaborating with others in the system to come up with additional programs for children this summer.

Ideas include “story strolls,” where books are set up in various locations and “kids walk by and read each page.” Another possibility is a “reading ride” with books displayed for young cyclists along the Mesabi Trail.

The Mountain Iron library is typically extremely active, and “it has never been so quiet, a least for the last 15 years,” Amundson said, adding that she is looking forward to getting going on the curbside pick-up.

“We’ve had lots of positive feedback already. I’m excited for us to serve our community again.”

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