SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- San Luis Obispo County Public Libraries are adjusting services due to the large number of employees that have been temporarily reassigned to help with the county's COVID-19 response efforts.
"Since March our library staff has been assisting the county in its COVID-19 response," said Erica Thatcher, San Luis Obispo County Public Libraries Outreach & Marketing Coordinator. "It's all about health and safety in our community and we are doing our best to support that."
Over the past nine months, library staff members have been assisting in the ongoing response in a variety of ways.
"We are filling roles in contact tracing, with PPE orders, we are working out in the supply warehouses," said Thatcher. "We are at vaccine clinics and test sites. We have worked in homeless shelters. We are working with a variety of county departments."
Thatcher said most, if not all, of the county's library 80-plus employees have been reassigned to COVID-19 related duties at one time or another.
"I'm extremely proud and grateful to work with some really amazing people," said Thatcher. "We have all stepped out of our comfort zones and have gone to fill roles that we didn't feel like we were ready to fill and some of us this has been kind of a life=changing experience."
Due to the decrease in staffing, the entire library system across the county is being impacted.
"As more of our staff gets called to fill roles out in the community, staffing at the branches really has decreased. We're running on a skeleton crew," said Thatcher.
As a result of low staffing, all but four of 14 county libraries are now closed.
At the four locations that remain open, in San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero and Morro Bay, services are being limited beginning today.
"We have had to pivot to sidewalk service as of today so we can keep four of our locations open," said Thatcher.
While library users cannot go inside any of the sites, they are still able to browse the entire collection of books and materials online.
Books and other library materials are able to reserved through the website.
The library will later notify users their materials are ready for pick-up, which will be available at the library's front door.
"It's not as convenient as coming in and browsing through the stacks, but it allows you to get the things you need, a book, a movie, and go on from there," said Jim Heller of Paso Robles."It's nice. With everything being closed, it's nice to be able to pick something up."
The new modified system is available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday.
All four libraries will close for a break from 1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m each day.
The sidewalk service is scheduled to run until Jan. 30, 2021.
"I think this is a good compromise," said Thatcher. "We really want to stay open as much as we can, as long as we can and hopefully, this is the last pivot that we have to do."