The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

Library reopening effort is one for the books

Lillian Chen
Linne Fetter arranges books for curbside pickup in front of the Belmont Public Library.

San Mateo County Libraries have partially reopened following loosened COVID-19 restrictions.

"On June 9, we launched curbside service," Kathleen Beasley said. Beasley is a librarian at the Belmont Public Library. "It started out first contactless. Everything was packed in bags and was put out without any contact between patrons and library staff. But now, we have opened a walk-up window so people can choose the kind of service they want."

How to apply for a library card while social distancing

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses and public institutions to close temporarily, the libraries were no exception. During the shelter-in-place period, the San Mateo County Libraries supported their users with online resources such as ebooks. However, over the summer, as regulations loosened, they were able to reopen partially.

Applying for a library card during the COVID-19 pandemic may sound complicated, but there is a simple process to acquire this helpful tool. To respect social distancing rules, you can apply for a San Mateo County Library card online. Your local library will then email your barcode number and mail you a physical card that can be used to check out books and other resources. To apply for an SMCL card, click here.

With these services, library cardholders can check out books, DVDs, CDs, and even items like bicycles, sewing machines, and 3D printing services.

Bishista Paul, a sophomore at Carlmont high school, has utilized the contactless curbside pickup at the San Carlos Public library to check out books such as Beowulf for their English class and Barron’s AP European History. They have also checked out books to read for recreational purposes.

“I need to do something other than homework to make sure I don’t go insane,” Paul said. “So reading books is pretty great.”

In addition to supplying material goods, the library is looking to resume other services previously offered. One of the library’s primary functions before the pandemic was to provide a safe and educational community and environment for students and other community members.

According to Jason Sanchez, a teacher at Mariposa Upper Elementary School in San Carlos, “[The libraries] have people coming in from toddlers with their parents who are getting storytime, all the way up to people in advanced stages. My grandparents, who, all the way through their 80s, would go to their public library where they lived… It was a place for them to meet with friends and talk about books.”

Antonio Kazarian, a junior at Carlmont, also recalls visiting the library after school.

“I went to the library every day… I basically used it as a place to interact with people,” Kazarian said.

The library is attempting to host many of its services for teens while maintaining social distancing.

Before the pandemic, librarians would physically visit classrooms to promote the library and its resources.

“When I worked for the Hillsborough City School District… the librarians would actually come to the schools, and they would do a drive where they would promote getting library cards for every student in the school and every student in the district,” Sanchez said. "They really do a great job of canvassing out to the grade schools and really get those library cards in students' hands when they’re young.”

According to Beasley, this service is continuing virtually.

“Our teen librarians are going virtual… so that they can teach about resources or talk about authors— really anything that high school students or high school teachers would be interested in,” Beasley said. “They would be willing to come to your classrooms and ‘Zoom’ in.”

In addition, the library has a plethora of online resources for high school students. For example, the library provides access to Britannica School, a multimedia encyclopedia for students of all ages, and Proquest K12, which contains information on world cultures. The library also offers an archive of local newspapers and live tutoring. The full catalog of online resources can be found on their website.

The library also offers a variety of online events via Zoom. Some popular programs among teens include author events and practice SATs, attracting up to 300 attendees. “We have very bumped up Zoom licenses. So we have some Zoom programs that can allow as many as 1000 people to attend at one time," Beasley said.

According to Paul, the library can be an excellent free resource for test prep.

“My sister, she didn’t buy a single thing for the SAT… she checked out ten books from the library and went through all of them, and now she’s in med school, so the library helped my sister get to med school," Paul said.

However, teens generally seem unsure about the library’s educational value during distance-learning.

“I feel like the services at the library … have decreased because of COVID-19; they can’t open tables or anything, but they can give you books, and they have programs online, for kids usually,” Paul said.

The courtyard behind the Belmont Public Library was once a popular hangout after-school spot, but it now lays empty and barren. (Lillian Chen)

“I don’t think it’s a practical use for these high school students to go to the library, check out a book when they can easily have the internet as a resource,” Kazarian said. “For elementary school students that actually like read a lot more than high school students do … I think for younger children, the curbside pickup is more beneficial because they can take out books … they read and watch from the library.”

Kazarian also believes the library could improve its community outreach.

“High school students really don’t have much use for library books for their education. It’s more so … the extracurricular activities. If the library actually wants to help high school students, then they should reach out to us and try … to engage with us, like how they used to before.”

Sources: Jason Sanchez, Instagram poll. (Lillian Chen)
Sources: Jason Sanchez, Instagram poll (Lillian Chen)

Despite some perceived shortcomings, the library’s services have been relatively successful.

“I’m amazed at what they’re able to do right now. I think they’re doing a great job… I think that the libraries do such a great job, especially because anytime that something’s run publicly… the funding isn’t always there. So again, I think they’re doing an amazing job,” Sanchez said.

“Overall, I feel like the library’s doing pretty much the best that it can right now… I think they’re doing a 9.5 out of 10,” Paul said.

Although many library services could be adapted to a virtual environment, the pandemic has undoubtedly changed the library ecosystem.

“We miss you guys coming into the library,” Beasley said. “So please stop by our walk-in service. Say hello. You’ll see some familiar librarians. They’re missing you too.”

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About the Contributors
Lillian Chen
Lillian Chen, Staff Writer
Lillian Chen is a sophomore at Carlmont High School. This is their first year in the journalism program. They enjoy art, music, and literature and look forward to sharing local news with their community. Twitter: @lil_ian_uwu
Chelsea Plunkett
Chelsea Plunkett, Segment Producer
Chelsea Plunkett is a sophomore at Carlmont High School and this is her first year in journalism. She covers local news because she likes to work with others in her community. In her free time, she likes to dance, act, and read. Twitter: @chelsplunk

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The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.
Library reopening effort is one for the books