Santa Barbara Public Library branches opened indoors Tuesday for the first time in over a year.
Patrons can once again browse the stacks but are limited to 30 minutes each day.
The main branch, also known as the Central Library on Anapamu Street, was quiet, with a few individuals checking out books or updating their library cards.
Librarians expect much more activity Saturday during a summer reading program kick-off event at Alameda Park. There will be activities for kids, such as origami, snow cones, printmaking and more.
The Santa Barbara Public Library will also unveil its mobile library, a van that will stop around the community to provide a selection of books, two laptops and internet connectivity for two hours per stop.
Librarians have adapted to the pandemic’s challenges. Initially, they offered books purely through mail, then added sidewalk book pick-ups and a mini library inside the main campus.
“Since the building was closed, it was a consistent reinvention process of how we can get our materials and our services out to the public,” Ariana Bilek, circulation supervisor, told the News-Press.
She’s glad the building is open now, so she can interact with patrons.
“It’s amazing when people walk in, and you kind of see their eyes widen as they remember what it was like more than a year ago, the last time they were able to come,” she said. “It’s an air of excitement. And people are thrilled to be able to come in.”
Tina Korisheli, a longtime Santa Barbara Public Library patron, was delighted when she got off work in time to visit the Central Library. She had used the pick-up service, but she missed the feeling of being in person.
“It’s so much more fulfilling to get here and be able to spend the time,” she said.
Lisa Gonzalez, senior librarian for youth services, explained the library’s decision-making process behind limiting the amount of time indoors.
“Public Health is a big priority for us,” she told the News-Press. “We’re not a business; we don’t suffer economically by having some restrictions. So, you know, I think our priority is to make sure that everyone that would like to be in the library feels safe being here, which means that we will probably continue to be asking for mask use and have some stricter capacity limits than in the past.”
She said the library will be taking June 15 (the date Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed as the end of the tier system) “with a grain of salt.”
Staff limited the building’s capacity to 92 people and is waiting for a greater portion of the population to get vaccinated before opening to more people. Masks are required throughout the visit.
Sisters Maria and Anna Alyakrinskaya missed going to the library after the school day this past year. The local high school students felt like part of their routine was gone, and they especially missed the tutoring opportunities provided.
They signed up for summer reading alongside their little brother.
All programs are offered digitally or outside.
For a schedule of when the library is open or to learn more, go to santabarbaraca.gov/gov/depts/lib/default.asp. In addition to the Central Library, the Santa Barbara Public Library has branches on the city’s Eastside and in Montecito and Carpinteria.