THE DALLES — In mid-March of 2020, like thousands of other establishments, The Dalles Wasco County Public library shut its doors to the public, unable to offer more than curbside service in order to comply with statewide safety guidelines and help slow the spread of COVID-19. As of May 18, 2021, the library is open and welcoming the public once again.

Although Wasco County currently resides in the “moderate risk” category, the library has the opportunity to open for limited services. While there are currently state allowances for fully vaccinated individuals to go mask-less, all patrons who want to enter the library must be wearing facemasks that cover both their nose and their mouths at all times and allow for their temperature to be taken upon entry. Once inside, everyone must adhere to social distancing guidelines, as well as agree to an approximate one-hour visit. “(So far) the public’s been really excellent,” said District Librarian Jeff Wavrunek. “It’s been well posted outside that you have to wear a facemask …it’s nothing unreasonable and the public has been really good about it … we’re really pleased.”

For those uncomfortable entering the building or unable to participate in the required safety measures, curbside service is still available, with patrons only needing to call the library to inform them of their needs (if unsure, patrons can find a comprehensive list of safety guidelines that need to be met in order to enter the building on The Dalles Wasco County Library website and Facebook page). While inside the building, three computers will be available for public use for 30 minutes at a time, with the printer and photocopier available for use as well.

While in-person library programs, such as sewing, manga/anime, and knitting clubs are on hiatus for the time being, the library has had the opportunity to become innovative by providing the community with projects and entertainment for those who desire to participate. “Take and Make” bags, filled with all the required supplies needed to make a craft or participate in a STEM related activity, are available to patrons of any age and can be taken home and put together by individuals or with their families (each bag has video instructions that can be found on The Dalles Public Library YouTube channel). Patrons can also tune into children’s Storytime, an interactive virtual reading of children’s stories for kids ranging from babies to pre-school ages. Sessions are held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, with the videos available on the library YouTube channel or via a link on their Facebook page. Bilingual options are available for non-English speakers.

Starting June 14, the library will also be holding their second annual online Summer Reading Program. Mary Pastrana, the library’s Programming and Outreach director, told Columbia Gorge News that those interested can use the online platform Beanstack to log reading time, write reviews, and register for Take and Make kits to earn tickets, which can then be used in virtual raffles to win prizes. Anyone who wants to participate will have three different age categories to choose from: Children 0-10, Teens 11-18, and Adults 19-plus, and all members of the community are encouraged to partake.

The theme of this year’s program is titled "Reading Colors Your World." According to Pastrana, the theme “offers us the ability to explore culture, nature, the arts, and humanity, while nurturing kindness and growth in our community through reading.” Those interested in registering and/or getting more information on the Summer Reading Program can visit wascocountylibrary.com/srp2021 starting June 1.

To register for a Take and Make bag, learn more on how to watch a virtual Storytime, or get information on future events held by The Dalles Public Library, visit www.wascocountylibrary.com/the-dalles-library.

With 2020 having made accessibility to the internet that much more crucial, on top of providing access to books and movies the library strives to provide members of the community with that vital accessibility. Patrons can check out wifi hotspots that provide unlimited wireless service for up to three weeks (where they can then check out a new one or renew the one they have depending on demand), giving them access to high speed internet. Patrons may also be able to check out one of the Chromebooks the library has available for use, as well as gain free access to streaming services like Netflix by checking out a Roku streaming device.

On top of these available devices, the library encourages the community to take advantage of their various online resources. Resources, such as Library2go, where patrons can borrow and download e-books and audiobooks, or Kanopy, a free movie and documentary streaming service, and Tumblebooks, a website that puts animation, music, and narration to existing children’s books. To access any of these services patrons only need access to the library website and their library cards.

Currently, The Dalles Library is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday.