The Pleasanton Public Library has become a beacon of caring and sharing during the pandemic, as patrons old and new turn to it for information, education and pure escapism.
"We have all kinds of resources to help people find their next great read," librarian Julie Eseltine said. "We are always happy to share our favorite books, and if we find out what they like and what their interests are, we can make recommendations."
"If people are looking for ways to do self-care, if they need pointers on that topic, we have different things in the collection about taking care of themselves," Eseltine added, citing books on healthy diet, meditation and trying yoga.
In normal times, the library had regular patrons as well as newcomers, and many would approach the desk to say they did not know what to read next, Eseltine said.
"We start with what you have read that you like, and can try and find books in a similar style or on the same theme," she said. "Or we can expand on the topic from another perspective. There are all kinds of ways to get someone to their favorite book."
When shelter-in-place began, the library expanded its online services, and now webpages offer suggestions, such as "Book Club Selections," "Quirky Books" and "A Little Obsessed with Magical Realism" as well as recently reviewed books.
The library has kept its eight librarians full-time, as well as clerks and administrators, who alternate going into the facility and working from home to keep social distancing.
They staff the phone from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday each week to answer questions and recommend books the individual might enjoy. Inquiries can also be made via email. And librarians continue to advise patrons on how to set up their devices to download digital books as well as movies and documentaries.
The latest innovation, Eseltine said, is book bundles put together by staff.
"There is a menu of a dozen different selections, kids' books in age ranges, adult materials, and Chinese materials and Spanish materials," she said. "One group who really appreciates this is parents of kids who like picture books."
The library normally circulates millions of items a year, Eseltine said, and curbside pickup, which began in June, has been a boon for readers.
"It is a system we've had to create, out of various parts of software, pivoting from our normal routines," she said.
Patrons reserve books online, are notified when they are ready, and text when they leave for the library. Once there, the books are brought out and placed into the back of the vehicle. Returned books go through a four-day quarantine.
"The last number was 400 items per day newly placed on hold," Eseltine said. "Our staff are embracing it enthusiastically. This is why we exist -- to get resources for education and entertainment into the hands of people who want to use it."
Anyone can log onto their website (via www.cityofpleasantonca.gov) and get a library card within minutes.
"The best advice I've seen is to find things that make you happy, that transport you and give you a break if you've been feeling stress or anxiety," Eseltine said.
Those who cannot go online can telephone 931-3400 to request books for curbside pickup.