On May 4, the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey (SCLSNJ) will launch a test pilot for a new initiative, Hands Free Holds, at the Bridgewater branch. This service will offer Library customers the opportunity to pick up items they previously placed on hold while the Library is closed due to the COVID-19 crisis.
“Our number one core service at SCLSNJ is making personalized connections between the community and materials,” said Lynn Hoffman, director of operations. “Knowing that we have items sitting on our shelves that our customers would usually be using has been heartbreaking for us as Library staff. We hope that these first steps toward putting books, DVDs, magazines, music, and more in people’s hands is just the beginning of our path toward providing safe access to the wealth of resources SCLSNJ has to offer.”
There are over 5,100 items sitting on the hold shelves across the Library System, with more than 400 individuals with materials on hold at the Bridgewater branch. The goal of this unique, concierge-style service is to allow Library customers that may not have access to virtual resources to obtain physical materials in a manner that is safe and secure for customers and staff.
SCLSNJ staff will begin to reach out to customers with holds at the Bridgewater branch by phone to schedule a 10-minute pickup window. When customers arrive at the building during their scheduled time, the items will be outside the front door, checked out and ready to go.
“The Library is asking that customers hold off on reaching out to the Library or just stopping by, hoping to get their holds faster. This program is all new for us, and we will be starting slow so that we can learn and assure the safety of our customers and our staff before really ramping up to a run,” said Hoffman. “We will reach out to you when we’re ready to scale up. Also, we want you to keep your checkouts at home until we’re ready to take them back after our branches reopen to the public. And, we promise, no fines.”
“While closed, the Library is looking at several safe and practical ways for customers to obtain items,” said Christopher Korenowky, director of public services. “The first phase shows the public being able to retrieve some of the titles that were on hold at the Bridgewater branch prior to closing. Plans are already underway to potentially get other reserved items to the public across other branches in the county. We are grateful to the community for continuing to make SCLSNJ a destination during the shutdown.”
Loan periods on all Hands Free Hold items will start at four weeks, and will continue to automatically extend as long as public libraries are closed. The Library System will not be accepting any returns at this time.
For questions about Hands Free Holds, contact: email@example.com.