Reading’s not dead: Book lovers can still access local libraries and bookstores

Amid a statewide lockdown, Twin Cities libraries and bookstores are getting creative.

Illustration by Jane Borstad.

Jane Borstad

Illustration by Jane Borstad.

Alex Strangman

What is there to do when almost everything is closed, most people are stuck in isolation and you’ve crossed everything off your Netflix list? Grab a book!

Local libraries and bookstores are still offering plenty of ways to access great reads during this time, from online e-books to curbside pickup.

Even with all physical locations closed, Hennepin County libraries are still operating smoothly. Eight locations are offering curbside pickup weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

More than 2,000 people took advantage of the curbside pickup in the first two weeks, with over 6,000 items checked out, said Josh Yetman, Hennepin County Library communications manager.

One of the biggest concerns for patrons thus far, he said, has been over the library’s return policy, which for the time being is nonexistent.

“People keep asking, ‘When can I return my books?’ We’re kind of trying to say, ‘Not yet, just hang on. We’re gonna figure this all out together, but no hurry … just keep it in a safe place at home,’” Yetman said.

All due dates for books and other materials have been extended automatically, and no fines will be accumulated during this time.

Hennepin County libraries have also created a temporary e-card program, which enables patrons to check out e-books from its online database.

The card, which Yetman said over 3,000 people have already applied for, will expire 30 days after Hennepin County libraries reopen.

University of Minnesota libraries are still operating as well during the lockdown, though all physical locations are closed.

For now, students can’t access physical books because University libraries don’t offer curbside pickup. But, there are still plenty of materials available online through the library’s membership with HathiTrust, a digital collaborative of academic and research libraries.

According to Lisa German, dean of University of Minnesota libraries, students can access anything within HathiTrust that is owned by the University of Minnesota. Right now, that’s about 50% of the University’s print collection.

For students with books, German says not to worry — no one is being fined, and students should simply keep any library materials safe until libraries reopen.

“Just enjoy them longer. Read the whole thing,” she said.

Some local bookstores are also looking to make the most out of a tough situation, although a few have decided to close their doors completely for the time being.

According to co-owner Matt Hawbaker, the Book House in Dinkytown is closed for in-person browsing, but orders can be placed online and by phone or email. The Book House is also offering curbside pickup and delivery on orders over $25 for customers in the metro area.

Andrew Hersey, owner of Paperback Exchange in southwest Minneapolis, said the bookstore is offering curbside pickup for online and phone orders, but all trades must be done by appointment.

Birchbark Books in the Kenwood neighborhood of Minneapolis is also offering curbside pickup in addition to its online store. Other local favorites, including Milkweed Books, Moon Palace Books, Magers and Quinn and Winding Trail Books, are not offering curbside pickup at this time but still have their online stores open for business.

No matter how you’re getting your books, local libraries and booksellers alike have you covered for all of your quarantine reading needs.