Stock up on books: Juneau’s public libraries close for 2 weeks in response to coronavirus

The Juneau Public Library runs a number of children’s programs to promote literacy among young people. (Photo by Jacob Resneck/KTOO)

Add one more thing to the stockpile list while life grinds to a halt for coronavirus: books.

Following Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s announcement of statewide school closures, the City and Borough of Juneau has closed public facilities, too, until the end of the month, including Juneau’s public libraries.

But on the last day before the closure, things seemed pretty normal at Juneau’s downtown branch. It seemed a little busier than you might expect on a sunny Sunday afternoon, but a lot of people were there to stock up on books for while they’re potentially stuck at home due to workplace and school closures taking effect Monday morning.

But a few things were already different. There’s usually a pile of giant stuffed animals in the story time corner.

A note in the downtown branch of the Juneau Public Library elevator on March 15, announcing a closure as part of the state’s COVID-19 response. (Photo by Jennifer Pemberton/KTOO)

Librarian Kathy Ward said they had to put them all away.

“Because they’re very difficult to clean, and they got a lot of use. When this all dies down, they’ll be back out for people to play with,” she said.

“I’m going to miss the snake,” she adds. “The snake’s been my pal for 20 years.”

Ward says that everyone can hang on to their books until the library reopens on March 31 — regardless of due dates — and there are no fines while they’re closed.

Also, they won’t cancel anyone’s holds that were placed before the closure. Patrons can pick those up when the library opens again. And library staff will still be working during the closure. So you can still call or email a librarian and get a thoughtfully researched answer.

It was the adults that made the library feel busy on Sunday. For instance, all of the library’s public computers were being used.

But for the kids, it felt like business as usual.

Seven-year-old Zoe Bliss was starting to read a few pages from her very tall stack of books. Her mom, Taryn Bliss, works in public health and is happy to roll with the punches while things slow down in Juneau.

“You know, we all have our responsibility to our community and to our high-risk populations and our health care system to do what we can,” she said. “And sometimes that means just pressing pause.”

Eight-year-old Leo checked out a multi-disk set of audio Dr. Seuss books. And his bag was full of Lego books, which you might assume are prep for school being closed.

“We’re homeschooled,” he said. “So we have school everyday.”

Turns out that’s how many books he always checks out. It’s good to know that life feels totally normal to someone.


Jennifer Pemberton

Managing Editor, KTOO

I bring stories from the community into the KTOO newsroom so that all of our reporting matters. I want to hear my community’s struggles and its wins reflected in our coverage. Does our reporting reflect your experience in Juneau?

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